President Trump has engaged in flagrant corruption by retaining control of his private business empire while holding public office and refusing to disclose his financial information. Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold has spent years patiently ferreting out one of the most blatant conflicts of interest: Trump having the government line his own pockets by visiting his properties with his retinue in tow.
In response to Fahrentholt’s latest report, which examines records of federal government expenditures at Trump-owned properties, White House spokesman Judd Deere issued the following response:
“The Washington Post is blatantly interfering with the business relationships of the Trump Organization, and it must stop,” Deere wrote in his statement. “Please be advised that we are building up a very large ‘dossier’ on the many false David Fahrenthold and others stories as they are a disgrace to journalism and the American people.”
The movie-villain-style dialogue, and its ominous threat of compiling a “dossier,” have received most of the attention. But there’s nothing inherently wrong with the administration compiling information pertaining to a reporter’s story. If they have a detailed factual rebuttal or any evidence of falsehoods, they should release it. (Spoiler: They don’t.)
What’s actually astonishing about this line is its assumption that Trump is entitled to absolute privacy in the operation of his business. Of course, no businesses — certainly not large ones — are entitled to operate free of any scrutiny from reporters. Certainly a business run by the president has no such right. And a business run by the president that is collecting hundreds of thousands of dollars out of taxpayer pockets has the weakest imaginable claim to privacy.
Trump has so completely inverted the normal expectation of disclosure that he is asserting that he not only has a right to own his business while in office, and that he doesn’t have to disclose anything about who pays him, but that reporters don’t even have the right to go through public records and find out how much of his profit comes at public expense.
Indeed the administration has so deeply internalized the logic of corruption that it sees no problem with having White House spokesman Judd Deere speak as a representative of the Trump Organization. Why is protecting “the business relationships of the Trump Organization” from public scrutiny, or from anything, a cause that an employee of the executive branch concerned with? If the Post started looking into IBM or Burger King, those companies couldn’t send out Judd Deere to threaten its reporters.
Fahrenthold is documenting systematic corruption by Trump. The corruption is so ingrained that the administration’s attempt to deny it provides even more evidence of misconduct.