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The Law and Order President?

The Law and Order President?
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BY DON PORTOLESE

For a candidate who preaches law and order, Donald Trump doesn’t seem to embody the words he pays such lip-service. To his credit, Trump has taken an opportunistic detour from his divisive platforms of the past. Yet, is he really veering off into familiar territory? When considering these two words carefully, neither of which has guided Trump throughout his life, one has to wonder why a man with such little respect for law and order feels he can run on such a hypocritical platform.

We can start with the Trump Foundation. Whether illegally spending money on portraits of himself or legal counsel to wriggle his way out of yet another lawsuit, Mr. Trump has been pretty generous with his foundation’s money.   Despite this, records show he has not even donated to his foundation since 2008. In fact, it is not even considered a legitimate charity by New York’s Attorney General. The Washington Post revealed on Monday that the Trump Foundation has not registered with the state as a charitable institution and has been soliciting donations illegally as a result.   The Attorney General’s office has informed the foundation that it must desist from fundraising until it is in compliance with New York State law. What kind of politician would point his undersized finger at the Clinton Foundation if he didn’t have his own house in order?   Follow the money, right? Well, you don’t have to follow the money with Trump, because it generally begins and ends with him.

Then there’s Kurt Eichenwald’s recent revelation in Newsweek that Mr. Trump was actively seeking out business opportunities in Cuba in the late ‘90s. It appears that Mr. Trump was at least kind enough to pay the invoice he was sent by his executive, John Burke, for a $68,000 trip to Cuba back in 1998. However, any trip of this nature had to be sanctioned by the U.S. Government which had no knowledge of this business intel mission.

Let’s face it, the embargo against Cuba is one of the most ridiculous residuals of the Cold War. Maintaining an embargo against this country while doing business with regimes far worse is as injurious to US standing in the world as it is hypocritical. Nevertheless, if the law states that you cannot spend money in Cuba without governmental approval, Trump was breaking the law. What’s worse are his false promises to the Cuban American National Foundation shortly afterward. In his first jog for president, Trump told their members that he would not spend money or invest in Cuba until it was a democratic nation. More recent dealings with Cuba were reported by Businessweek’s Stephen Wicary and Jesse Drucker. They revealed that executives from the Trump Organization went to Cuba in 2013 to discuss the possibility of opening a golf course on the Caribbean island. This was once again illegal and a direct betrayal of his promise to the Cuban American National Foundation.

Yet, his forays into Cuba pale in comparison to Mr. Trump’s illegal activities on American soil. Many of Trump’s base consider these dealings excusable because they were “Only business.” Perhaps, but when those dealings negatively affect the average person on the street, we see how little Mr. Trump cares about his fellow human beings, let alone law and order.

Trump’s casino dealings are rife with illegal activity. Whether or not he had ties to the mob as some allege, Trump was guilty in some of his associations with mob figures. The Don-ald was fined $450,000 for buying nine luxury cars for reputed Gotti associate, Robert LiButti, as well as an additional fine of $200,000 for making sure no black employees were allowed to work where Mr. LiButti gambled while in his casino. While Trump may not have been directly involved with the mob, he did pull a mob maneuver when he tried to muscle in on two casinos. In 1986, Trump violated anti-trust laws by attempting to take over two gambling parlors in Atlantic City. He did not report his stock purchases in those casinos and was fined $750,000. In addition, Trump was fined $30,000 for receiving an indirect loan of $1.5 million to his failing Taj Mahal casino from his own father. He also had to pay $200,000 to the state of New York for attempting to squeeze an upstate Native American casino out of the business.  Though he admitted no wrong-doing, he did pay those fines.

While it’s clear that illicit activities of this nature are not exclusive to Trump (especially in the casino business), his real estate dealings are no less incriminating and far more telling about what kind of person he is. He was sued by the Justice Department for discriminating against African Americans with his rental properties.   When he bought a building on Central Park, he tried to evict tenants who had rent controlled apartments. He turned off their heat and water and sued those who complained about it. He settled those cases with no admission of guilt, but agreed to be monitored to ensure no further wrong-doing.

But wait, there’s still more… While plaintiffs are still coming forward in the Trump University fraud case, there are a few clear facts regarding the legitimacy of this institution. Trump University never obtained an educational license, yet operated as a university until they were forced to change their name to the “Trump Entrepreneur Initiative.” They also bilked students out of close to $40 million, not to mention money to the IRS for illegally filing under the status of an educational institution.

A look at Trump’s business dealings with average working people hits even closer to home. In all, USA Today reports, there have been over 3,500 lawsuits filed against Mr. Trump over three decades, the majority for failure to pay workers. He has bullied businesses into accepting reduced payments or no payment at all for work they had done. He has even withheld payment to lawyers who represented him while he defrauded these people. Trump claims this only happened when people didn’t do a good job. He, conveniently, seldom bothered to prove these allegations and often hired people back who he had accused of doing shoddy work. If you listen to their stories, it is obvious these people were swindled simply because Trump knew he could get away with it. This is the most shameful and inexcusable of his offenses. It is proof that he has no respect for working people and no business representing them.

Finally, we turn from Trump’s dealings with the law to how he would deal with the law (should he become president). Despite his lawman bravado, he has given few concrete details as to how he would apply his concept of law and order to our nation’s most challenging neighborhoods. His attempts at reaching out to African American voters (from the comfort of a white, suburban audience) promising law and order were racially tone deaf. Trump has obviously not been in many black neighborhoods, because his apocalyptic description, in the majority of cases, defies reality. African Americans and other minorities have it bad in many ways. Issues of race and class are complex and need to be dealt with in a nuanced way. To ignore the fact that systemic racism is part of the equation is both blind and dangerous. Instead, Trump appeals to minorities by insulting them and telling them their lives are so bad that they have nothing to lose by voting for him. For a man with such business acumen, that seems a pretty pathetic way to sell yourself.

Yet, like conservatives in general, Trump plans to sell us on the same failed policies of the past. He proposes reinstituting polarizing laws like “stop and frisk” to shake down minorities while allowing gun sales to go unrestricted. He proposes deporting 11 million illegal immigrants and building a wall rather than fixing our immigration system. It is this bottom up approach to law and order that has failed us time and again. We need to look at the big picture. We need to overhaul our legal and immigration systems from the top to the bottom, so that law and order isn’t used to exploit others; so that everyone defines these terms in the same way.

Given Trump’s history, his definition of law and order is certainly suspect. What kind of law are you referring to, Mr. Trump? A justice with money and cunning as its only criteria for demonstrating legality? What kind of order are you referring to, Mr. Trump? A pay-to-play order that has different rules for different ethnic, religious or income brackets? How can anyone believe that someone who has manipulated and broken the law so often would fix a system that has worked so well for him?

Any three of these charges (not to mention Trump’s misogynist comments to Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush) would have been enough to dropkick a presidential nominee out of the race in the universe we used to reside in. (I hadn’t the time or the stomach to go into the sexual allegations against Trump, which should be enough in themselves to disqualify him.) How is it that Donald Trump gets a pass on these crimes? In Trump’s world, a man is only guilty if he admits he has done wrong. This blatant disregard for law and order is borne out of a blatant disregard for anyone but Donald Trump. How can we allow a man to occupy the highest office in the land if he can’t even be trusted in his own office?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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