The holiday weekend is over. The turkey has been digested, the football played, the sacred sins of gluttony and sloth, fully committed. It’s time to forget everything you’re thankful for — and to remember everything for which you’re not.
In blue America, Donald J. Trump is personally responsible for no small part of that list. In his first 20 days as president-elect, Trump has given his detractors so many causes for fear and outrage, it can be difficult — both practically and psychologically — to keep on top of them all as they happen.
To help you stay informed despite this challenge, Daily Intelligencer will provide weekly inventories of Trump’s every assault on civic norms, common decency, and/or liberal democracy. Here’s a rundown of everything the president-elect has accomplished since Friday, November 18, (arranged in rough order of each affront’s apparent significance/severity):
Questioned the legitimacy of the election he just won.
Trump spent much of his campaign sowing doubts about the legitimacy of American elections, going so far as to suggest that Hillary Clinton was conspiring with international bankers and undocumented immigrants to steal the presidency through large-scale voter fraud.
One of the few ostensible benefits of Trump’s surprise victory was that the leader of the Republican Party would, presumably, stop sowing doubts about the integrity of our democracy. But Trump shattered that half-full glass on Sunday.
In response to the Clinton campaign’s decision to cooperate with the Wisconsin recount effort spearheaded by Jill Stein, Trump tweeted:
Here, the president-elect condemns his opponents for refusing to accept the results of November’s election … by declaring his own refusal to accept the results of that election; and suggests that the vote totals don’t need to be audited, by claiming that that the vote totals are off by more than two million.
But the problem with these remarks is much larger than unintentional irony. If Trump can’t acknowledge a (functionally irrelevant) popular-vote loss, how might he respond to an election result that actually challenged his grip on power?
Or, more immediately, how might he and his party go about ensuring that “illegal voting” (a.k.a. “nonwhite voting”) has less of an impact in 2020? Trump’s tweets could foreshadow a coming push for nationwide voter suppression — if it doesn’t foreshadow something much scarier than that.
Appointed Ben Carson secretary of Housing and Urban Development — despite the fact that Carson has no relevant experience and recently declared himself unqualified for any cabinet position.
Ben Carson is a retired neurosurgeon who has more experience hawking “cancer-curing” vitamins than managing a bureaucracy. Carson’s personal assistant alluded to this fact earlier this month, when he explained that Carson did not want a cabinet position because he believed that his lack of government expertise “could cripple the presidency.”
And then Donald Trump named Ben Carson as his pick for HUD secretary.
Beyond Carson’s lack of managerial experience, he has absolutely no experience in housing or urban policy. He does, however, believe that efforts to enforce the Fair Housing Act — which both prohibits discrimination in the housing market and requires municipalities to actively combat such discrimination — are “communist.”
He also believes that that there is a broad scientific consensus that aliens built the pyramids — but that this consensus is wrong, because the biblical Joseph built the pyramids with help from God, as a means of storing grain.
Carson’s appointment suggests that Trump’s preference for empowering incompetent loyalists over qualified professionals knows no bounds. Although, if Trump sees HUD primarily as a tool for enriching well-connected real-estate developers, Carson’s combination of loyalty and grifting experience may make him uniquely “qualified” for the position.
Allowed his D.C. hotel to actively court the patronage of foreign diplomats.
The president-elect owns a company with myriad overseas investments, creditors, and partnerships — and a lot of permit requests pending before foreign governments. The number of conflicts of interest this situation creates is uncountable. And Trump knows that if he continues to ignore these conflicts — and simply shapes American foreign policy around his own business interests — there’s little we can do to hold him accountable.
“The law’s totally on my side, the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” Trump explained last week in an interview with the New York Times. And he’s correct, to a point: The president is exempt from federal conflict-of-interest laws. Some legal scholars believe that the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution prohibits Trump from profiting off the gifts or payments of foreign governments. But absent the cooperation of congressional Republicans, it will likely be difficult to press that issue.
Meanwhile, Trump is already leveraging his claim on the White House for everything it’s worth. Earlier this month, the Trump International Hotel D.C. provided 100 foreign diplomats with Trump-brand champagne and a request for their patronage. Several diplomats told the Washington Post that they intended to make Trump’s hotel their delegations’ home away from home, so as to “build ties with the new administration.”
Invited the manager of his blind trust onto a phone call with the president of Argentina.
During the campaign, Trump promised that he would distance himself from his business interests by placing his assets into what he refered to as a “blind trust,” but is actually an entity that would allow him perfect knowledge of the assets he holds — and that would be managed by his children, who are now members of his transition team.
Since winning the White House, Trump has refused to accept the (wholly inadequate) constraints this vow would place on his actions. The president-elect has already invited his daughter Ivanka — the manager of his blind trust – to a closed-door meeting with the Japanese prime minister, and onto a phone call with the president of Argentina.
The day after that phone call, the Trump Organization received the Argentine government’s approval to move forward on its high-rise development in Buenos Aires.
Met with Indian business partners who have publicly declared their intention to capitalize on his status as president-elect.
Trump took time away from his transition to meet with the developers of Trump Towers Pune, a pair of 23-story buildings in the west of India.
“We will see a tremendous jump in valuation in terms of the second tower,” one consultant who worked on the project told the New York Times. “To say, ‘I have a Trump flat or residence’ — it’s president-elect branded. It’s that recall value. If they didn’t know Trump before, they definitely know him now.”
Tried to coerce Britain into appointing a right-wing extremist as its ambassador to the United States.
After filling his own administration with racist incompetents whose primary qualification for high office is their loyalty to Donald Trump, the president-elect publicly requested that U.K. prime minister Theresa May do the same.
Nigel Farage is a member of UKIP and an arch-critic of May’s Tory government. (Imagine if May publicly announced that “many people” wanted to see Harry Reid as America’s ambassador to Britain.)
But using Twitter to sour America’s relations with foreign governments appears to be a core part of Trump’s approach to diplomacy.
Berated the media at a closed-door meeting for publishing unflattering photos of his double chin.
Trump spent much of his campaign demonizing journalists as biased liars and/or the paid propagandists of Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim. The mogul’s attempts to delegitimize the Fourth Estate have not let up since Election Day. In addition to making himself less accessible to press scrutiny than any president-elect in recent memory, Trump has also declared America’s most-read newspaper to be a “failing institution,” and invited the nation’s leading journalists to an off-the-record meeting — so as to berate them in person.
At that meeting, Trump complained about everything from the tenor of CNN’s campaign coverage to NBC’s habit of publishing photos in which the president-elect appears to have a double chin.
It’s hard to imagine a worse way for a political figure to dispel concerns about his authoritarian tendencies than to attempt to dictate which images of himself can be publicly disseminated.
Criticized the cast of a Broadway musical for asking the vice-president to work on behalf of all Americans.
Mike Pence went to a performance of Hamilton on Broadway. A lot of liberals — and LGBT individuals — go to Broadway shows. And Pence believes in gay-conversion therapy, but not in same-sex marriage. So he was booed.
After the show, a cast member told Pence from the stage, “We, sir — we — are the diverse America who are alarmed and anxious that your new administration will not protect us, our planet, our children, our parents, or defend us and uphold our inalienable rights … We truly hope that this show has inspired you to uphold our American values and to work on behalf of all of us.”
Pence took this in stride. Trump was furious that his safe space had been violated.
Settled a fraud case for $25 million.
The president-elect decided that the case against his defunct “university” was strong enough for him to accept a $25 million settlement.
Admitted that his charity was guilty of self-dealing.
After months of accusing Hillary Clinton of philanthropic corruption, the Donald J. Trump Foundation informed the IRS that it had violated the prohibition on “self-dealing,” which bars the heads of nonprofits from using their charity’s funds to aid themselves. Previous reporting by the Washington Post’s David Fahrenthold revealed that the president-elect had used his foundation’s money to pay out legal settlements, acquire Tim Tebow memorabilia, and purchase large portraits of himself.
“Week” 1 (November 9 through 18)
Derided protestors as paid professionals whose acts of free speech are fundamentally “unfair.”
American presidents generally try not to discredit their detractors via patently false right-wing conspiracy theories — a point that someone on Trump’s staff apparently relayed to him, as the president-elect’s Twitter account declared its “love” of the protestors’ “passion” nine hours later.
Invited the manager of his “blind trust” to a meeting with the prime minister of Japan.
Even before his election, Trump had already made a mockery of good government norms, by refusing to extricate himself from the myriad conflicts of interest his company presents. Instead, the president-elect promised to place his assets into what he refers to as a “blind trust,” but is actually an entity that would allow him perfect knowledge of the assets he holds — and that would be managed by his children, who are also members of his transition team.
This week, Trump revealed that those children will also, apparently, take part in diplomatic meetings with the leaders of foreign countries.
Assembled a team of racists to lead his White House.
First, Trump tapped the allegedly anti-Semitic mastermind of an “alt-right” website as his chief White House strategist. Then, the president-elect tapped a retired general who believes that “fear of Muslims is rational” as his national security adviser. Finally, he named a man that a Republican Senate deemed too racist to serve as a federal judge in 1986 — one who thinks the Voting Rights Act is “intrusive,” and (allegedly) told an African-American federal prosecutor that he should “be careful what you say around white folks” — as the head of the Justice Department.
Took credit for the fact that Ford will not be relocating a plant to Mexico (which they never had any intention of relocating to Mexico).
In truth, Ford opted to keep the Lincoln SUV production line in Kentucky, after considering moving it to Mexico — but in either event, the plant would have remained open, and no jobs would have been lost.
But fake news outlets — and some not-so-rigorous “real” ones — celebrated Trump’s “victory,” anyway.
Declared America’s leading newspaper a “failing” institution.
Trump has made a years-long habit of denigrating any media institution that accurately reports information he doesn’t like. But the stakes of this behavior are drastically higher now that he leads the world’s most powerful country.
Abandoned his press pool.
Presidents-elect typically feel compelled to allow a pool of reporters to travel with them to public events, as a gesture to the public’s right to have a watchful eye on its leader. Trump feels no such compulsion.
Floated the idea of hiring his son-in-law to a White House position, in possible defiance of laws against nepotism and norms against conflicts of interest.
Public officials are barred from hiring family members to agencies that they have authority over. They also, generally, avoid hiring the significant others of the heads of their blind trusts.
Took calls from foreign leaders on unsecured phone lines, without consulting the State Department.
Trump spent the 2016 campaign savaging Hillary Clinton for her reckless violation of the State Department’s protocols for transmitting information. He has spent the past week taking calls from foreign leaders — on the unprotected phone lines of Trump Tower — without first soliciting pertinent briefings, in defiance of longstanding practice.
Referred to his White House transition as though it were the next season of The Apprentice.