Email #102, Subject: impeached presidents

Should a democratically elected president be allowed to mix business and politics?

South Korea says no. Their President Park Geun-hye was just impeached for corruption and cronyism. She left office last week after the Constitutional Court (the South Korean equivalent of our Supreme Court) agreed that she had improperly helped a friend raise millions of dollars from private companies. More than 70% of the population agree too. But as she left the Blue House (the South Korean equivalent of our White House), her supporters waved Donald Trump “Make American Great Again” campaign signs. They said, “We want to make Korea great again.”

She now faces charges of bribery, extortion and abuse of power. And she’s not alone. Argentina’s President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma, and Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra have all abused their political positions by mixing them with their private business interests.

All of those countries have much weaker democratic institutions than those in the U.S. That’s why it is so disturbing that President Trump continues to blur the lines between his own political and family business interests. Not only did he refuse to place his businesses in a blind trust, he appointed a family member to run them in his nominal absence. Although he famously tweeted criticisms of Nordstrom on behalf of his daughter’s clothing line, his foreign business connections are far more concerning. Here are just five:

Trump’s partner for Trump Tower in Mataki City is now the Philippine’s special envoy to the U.S.

Trump has a golf club, spa, and luxury housing projects in Dubai and has hosted Dubai dignitaries at his Florida resort.

Trump plans a pair of resorts in Indonesia, including a highway built by a contractor connected to the Indonesian government.

Trump has five more projects in India with partners allied with Indian politicians.

China’s state-owned bank is the largest lease holder of Trump Tower.

Any of these could place the President in an impeachable position. And this is only the beginning of a very long list. For President Trump, divisions between business and politics are murky at best. Although Congress is Constitutionally required to oversee the executive branch, you, as chair of the House Judiciary Committee, continue to do nothing. As a result, the U.S., once the leading model of democratic norms, now stands alongside the fledgling republics of Argentina, South Africa, Thailand, and South Korea.

You are prioritizing your own short-term political agenda over the long-term institutional damage to American government. Even without overt corruption, President Trump’s expansive business interests establish a new and shockingly low bar for the division between public and private power.

Please stop treating the President as your boss and start exerting the control over the executive branch that your job requires.

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Author: Chris Gavaler

Chris Gavaler is an assistant professor of English at Washington and Lee University where he teaches creative writing, contemporary fiction, and comics. He has published two novels, Pretend I'm Not Here (HarperCollins 2002) and School For Tricksters (Southern Methodist University 2011), and two nonfictions, On the Origin of Superheroes (Iowa University 2015) and Superhero Comics (Bloomsbury forthcoming 2017).

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