Donald Trump’s pal Vladimir Putin was so angry when the opposition politician Alexei Navalny called Putin’s United Russia, “the party of crooks and thieves,” he saw to it that Navalny was several times arrested, tried, convicted, and eventually locked up for years of house arrest.
Most informed international observers have called the arrests arbitrary, the charges spurious, the convictions tainted and the house arrest abusive.
When Navalny tried – from inside his Kremlin-secured and surveilled home — to challenge Putin in Russian’s most recent elections, Putin’s courts prevented him from doing so.
Putin committed these perversions of law and democracy not because he had to, his control of the Russian news and social media and his dominance of Russia’s faux-democratic political structures, made him electorally invulnerable. The Navalny persecution was a pre-emptive strike against any future wannabe wild cards in the Russian political process.
“See what happens? And you know Navalny never represented a serious electoral threat.”
Which may be why Navalny got off easy. Other Putin opponents or critics have wound up dead, or in critical condition in a coma on a park bench in the presumably safer UK. These mad crimes Putin does because he can.
Meanwhile, Putin’s “crooks and thieves” continue their own self-enriching crimes, regardless of the costs of international sanctions and isolation to Russia’s economy and the ordinary people who depend on it.
Meanwhile, in America, Trump’s Republican Party of “crooks, thieves and enablers” is, thank God, not yet brazenly killing us; but it is, under the cover of law and policy, spreading more political poison across our country than Putin could have imagined in his most malign fantasies.
First there’s Trump’s “tax reform,” which has diverted more money from average American wage-earners to the President’s crony oligarchs than Putin’s less legalistic misappropriations did in Russia. The most recent calculations suggest the Trump plan will benefit most poor folks by less than $50 a year, while the fabled 1% get $1 million or more. And few of Putin’s protegés have squirreled more ill-gotten gains off-shore than Trump’s close associates, like former Campaign Manager Paul Manafort or Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.
Then, there’s the horror to come. The revenue reductions imposed by this tax de-form threaten to shred America’s social safety net for decades to come.
But wait, there’s also the Trump team’s assault on America’s air quality and water resources, their rollbacks of regulations that not only protect us against avoidable power plant and car engine emissions and workplace injuries, but also against on-the-job racial and gender discrimination. This destruction of everything that made ours a more civilized country in 2016 than it was in 1916 or 1816 is a two-sided coin, like the Putin Ruble.
Not content to degrade the lives of the poor and middle-class, Trump rewards his mega-rich friends with preferential treatment through the tax code and exemption from ethical standards.
Consider the cases of Dr. David Shulkin, fired from heading the Veterans Administration allegedly because he took his wife on a foreign trip – a mix of government business and private pleasure – on the government’s dime, and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.
Munichin is one of the government’s truly professional arch-thieves. His bank used robo-signing and other forms of illegal pressurization to steal hundreds of homes from distressed citizens caught in the Wall Street greed squeeze of 2008-9.
How many of Putin’s pet pygmies could match Mnuchin’s claim that his sleazy business made him a billion bucks?
But he is still on the job, even though he, too, took his wife along on a so-called business trip to Fort Knox. No, he was not there to visit the gold, as if he were Scrooge McDuck swimming in his tank of coins, but to see the Solar Eclipse.
And the Mnuchins didn’t just bill us taxpayers for plane tickets, they billed us for a military plane for their celestial sightseeing tour.
The head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Scott Pruitt is more of a penny-ante enabler than actual mega-crook or thief. But his beneficiaries tend to be crooked and greedy despoilers of human lives and the environment. You know, people like Charles and David Koch, industrial scale poisoners of people working at or living near their energy plants in East Texas and the outskirts of Chicago. For them, Trump-style de-regulation and un-enforcement equal profit and impunity.
Let us leave lamenting Pruitt’s awful impact reversing government protections of the environment for another time and examine how his bent behavior costs you money. Scott is so wary of being caught out doing what he’s doing that he ordered for his own use, a secure office telephone booth. We paid more than $40,000 for it.
We also pay when Pruitt insists on flying First Class. He says he has to, because Coach Class is too full of people who are mad at him. Suck it up, Scott, and reap the disrespect your policies sow.
But when Pruitt wasn’t flying up front, he was feathering his nest with a deal that reeked of conflicts of interest. Pruitt apparently couldn’t find his own Washington apartment, so he worked out a deal to rent a room in one for $50 a night. But that wasn’t cheap enough. Pruitt only paid for the nights he or his daughter actually slept there. Over six months, the New York Times reports, Pruitt paid a little over $6000.
You know what kind of Capitol Hill rental $1000 a month would buy you? Something akin to the kind of hotel room that 50 dollars a night would get you in any American city.
During his considerable travels around the country and abroad, when he is expensing his lodging bill to you and me, how many $50 a night rooms would you guess are on Administrator Pruitt’s EPA account?
May I bet the ranch on ZERO?
But Pruitt isn’t just cheap; he’s unethical. His Capitol Hill bargain was rented from the wife of a big-time K Street lobbyist, whose firm not only represents clients with interests before the EPA, but who contributed thousands of dollars to Pruitt’s political campaigns in Oklahoma.
Eric Lipton of the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize for revealing how, when Pruitt was Oklahoma’s Attorney General, he was bought, paid for and became a very productive tool of the very energy interests his landlady’s spouse represents. He told the story on HERE & THERE.
But Judgment Day is nigh for Trump and the garbage he brought to Washington.
One possible example: Robert and Rebekah Mercer whose underhanded contributions to the foreign invasion of America’s 2016 Presidential election and Britain’s Brexit referendum may well result in criminal prosecutions. And to think, before the activities of their company Cambridge Analytica came to light, they’d only been the answer to the speculative question – “What if Caligula had a daughter?”