It’s all quid pro quo, sleazy self-interest and graft in Trump’s swamp. The daily revelations–we’ve just learned that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has been in business with Putin’s son-in-law, a connection that he somehow failed to disclose during his confirmation hearings—– tend to obscure the more pedestrian varieties of corruption and self-dealing that continue unabated while we are distracted by the Russian investigation and tweets from our embarrassing ignoramus-in-chief.
Case in point: Talking Points Memo had a recent article about AT&T’s planned acquisition of Time Warner for Eighty-six billion dollars. The deal is awaiting regulatory approval.
AT&T needs the Justice Department’s approval for that deal. Normally, that decision would be housed off at the Antitrust Division at the Justice Department. But no one thinks that’s how it works in the Trump Administration. AT&T needs Donald Trump’s sign off, possibly mediated through the hand of Jeff Sessions but maybe not. Indeed, there has already been quite a bit of concern on Capitol Hill that Trump would try to hold up the AT&T deal as a way to exert pressure on Time Warner.
Time Warner owns CNN, and we all know how fond President Belligerent is of “fake news” CNN. According to various sources, the White House has already put out word that it wants to condition approval of the merger proposal on AT&T’s willingness to pressure CNN to “improve” its coverage of the President.
When CNN broke the news about the imminence of a Mueller indictment, Roger Stone–a close friend of Donald Trump’s– went on a Twitter tirade so obscene that it got his Twitter account suspended. One Tweet was both specific and damning.
As Josh Marshall’s TPM article noted,
Obviously, Roger Stone can rant and wish all he wants. He was in a splutter and a rage. How can he know what AT&T is going to do? But let’s go back to one more thing we know. Roger Stone still regularly talks to President Trump. Is that what President Trump told Stone? That AT&T promised they’ll ‘clean house’ at CNN?
At this point, the quid pro quo is still hypothetical. But given what we know of Trump, his family, his business partners and professional associates (Paul Manafort, et al), the people he has chosen for his cabinet–it is all too plausible.
This is the way business is conducted in banana republics and corrupt, authoritarian regimes.
The essential element of the rule of law is that the same rules apply to everyone– governors and governed alike– that no one is above the law. Even under the most favorable analysis of Donald Trump’s business dealings, it would be hard to miss his disdain for the rules, his contempt for the legal system, and his conviction that neither applies to him.
Misuse of the power of the state–abuse of governmental authority–is an impeachable offense. One of the charges against Nixon involved his (mis)use of the IRS to punish personal enemies. If Trump does indeed allow the AT&T merger in return for a promise to eviscerate CNN’s independent coverage of the Administration, it would be a “high crime” for which impeachment is appropriate.
The difference, of course, is that for the Republicans who censured Nixon, duty to country outweighed partisanship. The only thing today’s GOP has in common with that era’s Republican Party is the name.