Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Company We Keep

It has often been said that we are known by the company we keep. Over the years I have begrudgingly come to recognize a measure of truth in this admonition. Granted, one’s circle of associates, and who she/he attracts into their orbit, is only one element of our overall assessment of a person’s judgment and character. But it is a valid criterion to consider, especially in the case of individuals who reach a position of great power and influence.

Donald Trump came into his presidency promising to bring “the best people” into his administration to effect his change agenda, and to “drain the swamp” of self-serving government employees and lobbyists (ex-politicians and otherwise) enriching themselves and their patrons. Yet two years in, the opposite result has occurred. Too many high level positions have been filled by persons with minimal experience or qualifications. Or by people hostile to the mission of the agency they are directing. Too often, appointees have exercised questionable ethical, self-enriching, or arrogant abuse of the privileges of their office.

One demonstration of Trump’s “company that he keeps” is the revolving door of people who have come into his Administration, and the record-setting turnover of these appointees. Such turnover reflects negatively not only on the individual, but quantitatively calls into question Trump’s judgment and processes for assessing people’s abilities and appropriateness for their job. Given that any new jobholder needs four to six months to begin to get their feet on the ground, Trump’s turnover record contributes to the level of chaos and amateurism we have seen. We need only to look at the track record to affirm this:

·        Secretary of Defense: Mattis (resigned in policy protest) → Shanahan+ (acting).
·     National Security Advisor: Flynn* → McMaster → Bolton.
·        Attorney General: Sessions → Whittaker* (acting) → Barr (nominated).
·         Director of FBI: Comey → Wray.
·        Secretary of State: Tillerson Pompeo.
·        United Nations Ambassador: Haley → Navert (nominated).
·        Director, CIA: Pompeo → Haspec.
·        Secretary of Interior: Zinke* → Bernhardt+ (acting).
·        EPA Head: Pruitt* → Wheeler+ (acting).
·        Secretary for Veteran’s Affairs: Shulkin → Wilkie.
·        Secretary of Health & Human Services: Price*   Azar+. 
·        White House Chief of Staff: Priebus Kelly → Mulvaney (acting; split job)
·        Director, Office of Management and Budget:  Mulvaney (concurrently, split job).
·        Director, Office of Consumer Financial Protection: Cordray → Mulvaney (acting; split job) → Kraninger
·        White House Counsel: McGhan → Cipollone.
·        Communications Director: Miller → Spicer (acting) → Dubkje → Scaramuchi → Hicks → Shine.
·        Press Secretary: Spicer Sanders.
·        Secretaries under the gun: Commerce: Ross*; Homeland Security: Nielsen; Treasury: Mnuchin*.

+Former lobbyist from industry now being supervised.
*Under ethics &/or criminal investigation for misuse of office &/or budgetary funds, by FBI, &/or Inspector General, &/or Congress, &/or state Attorney(s) General.

The second demonstration of Trump’s “company that he keeps” is the number of his associates outside of his administration appointments who are now mired in legal proceedings. It is a number that is continually expanding, driven by Congressional and Special Counsel investigations into Russian interference in our 2016 elections, and FBI and/or state investigations into sidebar criminal activities.

·        Donald Trump – obstruction of justice, potential collusion with foreign interests
·        Donald Trump – Emoluments Clause violations (NY and MD investigations)
·        Trump Foundation – dissolved for misuse; potential civil &/or criminal charges for Trump &/or children (NY investigation)
·        Trump New York real estate –illegal billings to evade family taxes (NY investigation)
·        Immigration fraud at Trump’s golf courses (state-level investigations)·        Mike Flynn – National Security Advisor (pleaded guilty; cooperating)
·        Bijan Kian and Kamil Alptekin – Flynn business associates (foreign agents for Turkey)
·        Roger Stone – long-time Trump friend, Republican “dirty trickster” (lying, obstruction)
·        Michael Cohen – Trump personal attorney (pleaded guilty: cooperating)
·        Paul Manafort – Trump Campaign Chairman (convicted; cooperation agreement cancelled)
·        Rick Gates – Deputy Trump Campaign Chairman (pleaded guilty)
·        Maria Buttina – Russian unregistered agent; infiltrated NRA (pleaded guilty; cooperating)
·        George Papadopolous – Trump Campaign foreign policy advisor  (pleaded guilty)
·        David Pecker – National Inquirer publisher facilitated hush money paid (granted immunity)
·        Matthew Whittaker  – Acting Attorney General; under FBI investigation – business fraud
·        Allen Wessilberg – Trump Business Organization – VP-Finance (granted immunity)
·        30+ Various Russian military / government / intelligence officials indicted

·        Potential indictments likely to come: Trump Inauguration Committee; Don Jr. / Eric / Ivanka Trump; Jarod Kushner; Jerome Corsi (Roger Stone deputy); Julian Assange (Wikileaks); Paul Erickson (Maria Buttina’s American boyfriend); the NRA (money laundering Russian Trump campaign donations).

One’s personal character lives within one’s mind and heart, demonstrated by one’s words and actions. That internal character in turn attracts people with their own character definitions. When a distinctive pattern emerges involving multiple associates attached to one powerful player, it behooves us to look closely at what portrait emerges. Others may not define us. But the people we attract, and the company we keep, can certainly reflect the substance of who we are for all to see.

©   2019   Randy Bell     


Anonymous said...

Good job. I enjoy your writing.

Anonymous said...

Love your writings, Randy, thank you!

Jane Kniffin said...

Chaos and amateurism – good word choices. I haven’t used the word amateurism to describe this administration. I find it a perfect fit. Thanks