At any other time, this (fill in the blank) would be the scandal of the decade. Now, with Donald Trump as president, we call it Monday.
Thursday evening, Trump attacked Syria, a sovereign country, with 59 Tomahawk cruise missiles. This act of war was done without Congressional authorization, even after Trump’s August, 2013, tweet that “Obama needs Congressional approval” before attacking Syria in nearly-identical circumstances.
The following morning, headlines like this one appeared in the business press: Raytheon, maker of Tomahawk missiles, leads premarket rally in defense stocks:
Defense and energy stocks dominated the list of premarket gainers on the S&P 500 Friday, led by Tomahawk missile-maker Raytheon Corp., after U.S. missile strikes against a Syrian air base overnight.
Donald Trump apparently owns Raytheon stock. In May, 2016, Trump reported to the Federal Elections Commission (FEC) that he owned Raytheon stock. Interestingly, this FEC report does not appear to include the extensive web of offshore anonymous shell corporations Trump uses to mask assets.
Since that filing Trump’s assets have not been sold with the proceeds placed into a “blind trust,” and there is no public record of his having otherwise sold the stock. Not only that, but Trump is able to draw cash from his “trust” at any time. He could literally have pocketed cash from his gains from attacking Syria.
Conflict Of Interest
Trump has a clear conflict of interest here. He ordered an attack using missiles from a company he owns stock in, the company stock went up as a result, Trump made a profit. He didn’t order the military to drop bombs, though he likely owns stock in companies that make bombs, or interrupt a Mar-a-Lago dinner to order a Seal team to raid the offices of the officials who ordered the gas attack. There is every reason for people to ask if personal profit was a factor in ordering the Tomahawk missile attack.
We don’t know, but there is the appearance of Trump potentially having done this for financial gain. This is why conflicts of interest matter.
The pubic has a right to be concerned about this.
Compare the appearance of potential conflict-of-interest in Trump’s Syria attack to a past scandal that was considered major, received extensive news coverage and resulted in years of investigations.
In 1993, President Bill Clinton dismissed seven employees from the White House Travel Office after investigations discovered financial improprieties. Among other reported improprieties, it appeared that companies that contracted to provide lucrative travel services were issuing “refunds” that the Travel Office director was putting into his own bank account.
Republicans accused Clinton of firing the employees so that “friends,” including a third cousin, could get the jobs, and so that companies from Arkansas could get contracts.
This became a major scandal that resulted in literally years of investigations. The national news media did front-page reporting on the “scandal” for years. Republicans forced investigations by the FBI, the General Accounting Office, the House Government Reform and Oversight Committee (1996 report), the Senate Special Whitewater Committee and finally an independent prosecutor. In 2000, a Special Prosecutor declined to prosecute the Clintons for the firings, but the mainstream news media were still at it. Fourteen years later, the right-wing media were still at it.
Compare everything in that seven years of major scandal and investigations, resulting from firing seven travel office employees for appearing to be taking kickbacks, to any given day of the Trump administration. For example, where the Clintons were investigated because a third cousin ended up with a White House job, Trump has hired his daughter and son-in-law.
A Lot More Than Just Raytheon
Trump’s direct and potential conflicts go vastly beyond just his Raytheon stock. The Atlantic looks at just his own company’s holdings, page after page,, in Donald Trump’s Conflicts of Interest: A Crib Sheet.
This is, needless to say, unprecedented. It shows how far “down the rabbit hole” Trump and the Congressional Republicans who refuse to old him accountable have taken the country. Things that would be major scandals in the past are barely even mentioned today.
There is a national Tax March on April 15 to demand that Trump release his tax returns, so we can at least begin to get a handle on his multiple conflicts of interest. There is a large march in Washington, DC along with marches in cities around the country. Go to TaxMarch.org to locate an event near you.
This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their OurFuture site. I am a Fellow with CAF, a project of People’s Action. Sign up here for the OurFuture daily summary and/or for People’s Action’s Progressive Breakfast.