The Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump came out swinging wildly in every direction last week. His comments about a federal judge and his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton raised a lot of eyebrows, even Republican eyebrows.
Could an investigation in a fraud case involving the defunct Trump University may be one of the reasons for his unhinged threats and verbal attacks?
Just the other day, Trump told his supporters at a rally in San Jose, California that if he is elected he suggested that he would direct his attorney general to investigate her if Clinton is not indicted over her use of a private email server during her time as secretary of state email use.
The Republican nominee-to-be has not only decided to play the role of prosecutor but of judge as well. The crowd cheered as he said:
"Folks, honestly, she's guilty as hell."
Of course, a speech isn't an interview so nobody in the media- if they had cared to- could ask Trump exactly what crime she was actually guilty of.
"I will say this, Hillary Clinton has got to go to jail."
He also added:
"Five years' statute of limitations, if I win. Everything is going to be fair but I'm sure the attorney general will take a very good look at it."
The threat to imprison political rival whom Trump sees as an obstacle to his ambition should be taken very serious as an indicator of what kind of president Donald Trump would make.
Last year, one Newsweek op-ed piece dismissed the email scandal as an obvious partisan ploy, all smoke, and no fire. A senior writer with Newsweek and a contributing editor, Kurt Eichenwald blamed the media for "huffing and puffing" before understanding the complications of the email regulations. Regardless of the wild claims against Clinton of email abuse, Eichenwald observes that the "use of a personal email account not a violation of the rules, it was specifically allowed by the rules."
Eichwald freely admits that he is no Clinton supporter but the whole thing, he implied, smacked of journalistic malpractice.
And besides, he wrote:
"Aren’t journalists supposed to know if there is a scandal before declaring that one exists?"
There's always been a double standard when it came to the Clintons, of course.
Where were these journalists when Dick Cheney was re-writing the rules of security designation, inventing whole new classifications in order to keep Congress and the press in the dark about his secret meetings with oil companies before the Iraq invasion? That's a large chunk of untouched meat for reporters.
Fire or no fire,the Republican Congress has invested a lot of time and a taxpayers' money searching for some sign of high crimes.
On social media, the email scandal has also gotten a lot of coverage. To hear the Trump supporters' narrative, any day now the FBI will bust down the Clinton front door and drag a screeching Hillary out by the hair.
It's easy to see why they cling to this image. The prospect of Hillary Clinton as president (after eight years of trying to make Obama a one-term president) fills them with revulsion. Four and very possibly eight years of a so-called liberal agenda brings tears to their eyes.
Trump is well aware of all that and talking about having Clinton arrested is a real crowd-pleaser. And Trump loves pleasing crowds almost as much as he loves pleasing himself.
There is, however, a more important reason why Trump would prefer to talk about Clinton in orange jumpsuits and braiding other women's hair all day.
He is scared out of his wits.
Preying on the Elderly and Uneducated
In the real world, the investigation of one of Donald Trump's money making schemes, the now-bankrupt Trump University, continues. An article from the New Yorker points out that, as far as a scandal, it's a lot worse than anything Clinton is presently facing.
The affidavit of Ronald Schnackenberg, a former salesman for Trump University, paints a very ugly picture of the inner workings of the Trump's victimization of desperate suckers in his classic bait-and-switch scheme.
Schnackenberg, who worked in Trump’s office at 40 Wall Street, testified that “while Trump University claimed it wanted to help consumers make money in real estate, in fact Trump University was only interested in selling every person the most expensive seminars they possibly could.” The affidavit concludes, “Based upon my personal experience and employment, I believe that Trump University was a fraudulent scheme, and that it preyed upon the elderly and uneducated to separate them from their money.”
Trump's reaction to these damaging revelations has been to attack anybody and everybody associated with exposing the details of the fraud.
For months of accusing federal Judge Gonzalo Curiel of bias due to his Latino background. This week, In full attack mode, the candidate said that the Indiana-born Curiel's Mexican heritage was the real reason for the investigation.
Mr. Trump said the background of the judge... was relevant because of his campaign stance against illegal immigration and his pledge to seal the southern U.S. border. "I’m building a wall. It’s an inherent conflict of interest," Mr. Trump said.
Besides the candidate, nobody seems to think that Curiel is prejudiced against Trump, for his racist remarks or for any other reason. Trump simply doesn't have a leg to stand on.
The Atlantic Monthly pointed out this week:
there’s no precedent for judges to recuse themselves from a case because of their race, gender, faith, or sexual orientation.
The candidate seems to think that life and the courts are unfair because of this legal scrutiny.
Trump’s racist remarks follow speeches in which the candidate said he was being “railroaded” by a “rigged” legal system.
In an astounding instance of unleashed rage, Trump threw caution to the wind, directed his attacks at the judge.
He simultaneously singled out Curiel as “hater of Donald Trump,” called him a “disgrace,” said he should “be ashamed of himself,” and said other federal judges “ought to look into Judge Curiel.”
Bullying other candidates is one thing, but attempting to bully a federal judge is quite another. His advisors must be losing plenty of sleep at night wondering how much further their employer is willing to go in attacking the justice system.
According to Trump's logic, no federal judge of Latino background is qualified to judge him. They are all biased against him solely as a result of their ethnicity.
But then Trump has insulted almost all ethnic groups. Are black judges similarly disqualified? What about female judges? He could make the same case there too.
What about Supreme Court justices who are from minority backgrounds? As president, would he recognize their votes or only the decisions made by white male judges?
The implication is that only judges friendly to Donald Trump have the right to hear any case against him. That's the stuff of dictators, not American presidents.
The Rule of Law
To his critics, Trump's remarks are just another example of the candidates' disdain for the rule of law. It's not just liberals who are saying it. Conservative-leaning David Post, a retired law professor
“This is how authoritarianism starts, with a president who does not respect the judiciary...You can criticize the judicial system, you can criticize individual cases, you can criticize individual judges. But the president has to be clear that the law is the law and that he enforces the law. That is his constitutional obligation.”
Another scholar adds to those misgivings. Professor Randy E. Barnett, a law professor at Georgetown, remarks:
“You would like a president with some idea about constitutional limits on presidential powers, on congressional powers, on federal powers and I doubt he has any awareness of such limits.”
Before writing Barnett off as just another academic elite, it should be pointed out that Barnett is no fan of the present administration. He was the architect of the first major challenge to President Obama’s health care law.
Those are some pretty loud warning bells coming from the people who would, in theory, be Republican voters.
It's not merely a case of political scandal du jour. The Trump University allegations have the potential to do serious damage to the Republican nominee's chances in November. He has no other option than to attack the court and to claim m he will put Clinton in jail. The bluster is an attempt to conceal a fact.
Trump is a billion-dollar fraudster who has managed to seal the Republican nomination with the blessing of most of the GOP leadership.
Straight Fraud and Hungry Children
In fact, the charges against Trump University are serious, regardless who presides in the courtroom. The New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman pulled no punches and told reporters:
"It's fraud. This is straight up fraud."
It is, in some ways, that hard questions about Trump's business practices should arise exactly where his career began. And Schneiderman couldn't have been cast better for his part.
Before being elected Attorney General, Schneiderman represented the 31st District in the New York State Senate. This comprises Manhattan's Upper West Side, as well as Morningside Heights, West Harlem,Washington Heights, Inwood, and Marble Hill, in addition to part of Riverdale, The Bronx.
Trump, who has never held any elective office, calls Schneiderman “a political hack.”
Undaunted by Trump's label, Schneiderman described the tycoon and now GOP nominee as both "dishonest and manipulative" when it came to his role in the defunct university.
"The law is very clear. The law protects the gullible as well as the sophisticated. As we've seen over the course of the last year, there are a lot of people who fall for Mr. Trump's promises and rhetoric."
When the judge released court documents, some things became immediately clear. Donald Trump had profited from a nationwide scam that shafted thousands of victims.
Trump University staff were instructed to advise prospective students who were unable to afford the tuition just to "max out" their credit cards.
One piece in New York Magazine sheds more light on the high-pressure sales techniques:
If a cash-strapped applicant said, "I don't like using my credit cards and going into debt," the playbook instructed recruiters to respond, "[D]o you like living paycheck to paycheck? ... Do you enjoy seeing everyone else but yourself in their dream houses and driving their dreams cars with huge checking accounts? Those people saw an opportunity, and didn't make excuses, like what you're doing now."
The idea target of the sales pitch was, former recruiters say now, a single parent with hungry children in order to convince said parent to take on massive credit-card debt.
From the recruiter guidelines, the pitch was all about exploiting the desperation of those who can not afford the colleges restricted to the offspring of the 1%.
These were normal people searching for a way to better themselves and, without any other opportunity available to them, grasped at straws. And Trump represented the man with all of the straws. The tycoon with the answers who actually seemed to care for the little guy.
Exactly the same people who support his presidential run today.
Questions remain how much direct involvement Trump had over the program.Therein lies a fiendishly clever trap for Trump. Name recognition has always played a major part in the Trump story.
The same was true when it came to Trump University and in promotional materials, the businessman assured students that the school's professors were people that he had "handpicked."
However, on the witness stand, it was a completely different story. CNN reported that Trump failed to recognize the name of "a single presenter or teacher at his real estate seminars."
He had a good motive for trying to distance himself from the staff.
the Trump University instructors and mentors were a joke.… They were unqualified people posing as Donald Trump’s ‘right-hand men.’ They were teaching methods that were unethical and they had little to no experience flipping properties or doing real estate deals. It was a facade, a lie.”
Ironically, Trump is damned either way. On one hand, he misrepresented to students/clients how much he was actually associated with the university, or he was directly involved in the hiring of personnel who were reportedly unqualified.
Still Worse to Follow?
Even though the allegations of fraud are damaging, there could be still worse revelations to follow.According to a story by Salon, top Republican prosecutors in Texas and Florida may have been induced to dismiss complaints by their constitutes after receiving substantial political donations to their election efforts.
Trump's critics think it seems a little too coincidental.
Citing an AP report released this week, the article points to two such cases from former Texas attorney general Greg Abbott and current Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi. If true, the Trump case turns from fraud to political corruption.
In the Texas case, the attorney general at the time later became the state's governor. There was a strong case to sue Donald Trump and Trump University for bilking Texas taxpayers out of more than $2.6 million. The lawsuit was however never filed.
Abbott.. reportedly opened a civil investigation into “possibly deceptive trade practices” when Trump University made inroads in Texas, but “Abbott’s probe was quietly dropped in 2010 when Trump University agreed to end its operations in Texas.”“Trump subsequently donated $35,000 to Abbott’s successful gubernatorial campaign, according to records,” the AP reported.
The Dallas Morning News adds that a former deputy director of Abbott’s Consumer Protection Division, John Owens, accuses Abbott of leaving Texas consumers “high and dry.”
“The decision not to sue him was political..Had [Trump] not been involved in politics to the extent he was at the time, we would have gotten approval. Had he been just some other scam artist, we would have sued him.”
The circumstances, legal analysts say, are unusual, especially given the fact that, according to investigators in the Lone Star state, Trump University hadn’t completed the paperwork necessary to even do business in Texas.
Abbott dismissed all suggestions of wrong-doing and points out that the state opened a civil investigation of the possibly deceptive practices of Trump University in Texas back. That investigation was dropped when university officials agreed to close down operations there.
Humorist Will Rogers once said:
"Many a politician wishes there was a law to burn old records."
In Texas they don't burn them, they bury them and then threaten anybody thinking about grabbing a shovel.
Case in point: Yesterday, in the latest move, the present Attorney General Ken Paxton moved to try to stop John Owens from sharing any more documents about a seven-month investigation into Trump University.
A letter sent by Paxton claimed that making public the details of the Trump University investigation violated the law. The letter states that, although Owens was no longer an employee, as an attorney "a lawyer must conduct his or her business with inveterate honesty and loyalty."
One suspects the emphasis here was more on the latter and less on the former. It's Texas, after all.
The Paxton letter, by first assistant attorney general Jeffrey Mateer, lists the legal prohibitions against releasing documents to the media.
"This disclosure.. violates policies of the Office of the Attorney General that prohibits agency employees from disclosing confidential or privileged information."
Transparency is not a high priority in Red State Texas even when it comes to protecting Long Star consumers against a New York fraudster.
Silence is golden if it means protecting the governor of Texas from having to explain himself. So, it is hard not to see this as an attempt to silence a critic with threats of legal action.
Why, that's just the kind of thing Trump got famous for.
Bonding with Bondi
In the Florida case, a political contribution from Trump appears to have been enough for prosecutors there to think twice about joining in a multi-state suit against Trump University.
Three days after Bondi’s spokeswoman was quoted in local media reports as saying the office was reviewing the New York lawsuit, the Donald J. Trump Foundation made a $25,000 contribution to a political fundraising committee supporting Bondi’s re-election campaign.Bondi, a Republican, soon dropped her investigation, citing insufficient grounds to proceed.
At the time, the Florida press apparently smelled a dead fish but a statement from Bondi's office dismissed any suggestion of conflicts of interest.
Despite that, Bondi has admitted that
“Donald and I have been friends for many years.”
She disputes the charge that her friendship (or his contribution) had anything to do with the decision not to participate in Schneiderman's lawsuit.
The reason for withdrawing from the nationwide investigation was simple:
The complaints filed in the office against Trump University in Florida weren’t pursued because New York’s Attorney General Schneiderman was already investigating.
As excuses for inaction go, it is fairly lame.
Even in the light of what is now known about his business practices, Bondi has had nothing but praise for Trump. She said on Monday that she is pleased with how he has brought new voters into the political arena.
Whether it is voters or victims, when it comes to Donald Trump, a lot of people were- and still are- happy to look the other way.
However, some Republicans, (at least those who haven't hopped onto the Trump bandwagon,) may see the allegations of Trump's political corruption as just another indication that the billionaire's influence, his name and his history are extremely toxic to the party.
As more news emerges about the scam, those who have committed themselves to Trump's election campaign might soon regret their support. It's crunch time and so far, the majority of Republican elites have shown themselves too weak and too cowardly to argue with Trump's success.
Trump's declaration to put Clinton in prison over trumped up charges of email abuse is perhaps a classic case of projection and diversion.
For the sake of the long-term viability of the Republican party, nervous conservatives have little choice but to pray that Trump will manage to convince undecided voters that putting a "greedy" con man in the White House will be the way to make America great again.
Many voters -from conservatives to middle-of-road undecideds- might soon turn their back once and for all on the GOP. And for good reason, by nominating a man like Trump, the party is admitted something that has been obvious to a lot of people.
The Republican Party has been the party of fraudulent schemes and billionaire swindles since Ronald Reagan sold them on trickle-down economics.