The Trump Brand
Donald Trump came from an outer borough of New York determined to make his mark on Manhattan by having the gaudiest big buildings with the glitziest exteriors and appointments. Nothing was too gold-plated for his taste, on the outside of his buildings or the insides of his residences.
In acquiring his properties and (most important for his profitability) his name brand, Trump cared for nothing else. He destroyed landmarks and artistic building exteriors without a second thought. He harassed and removed long-time residents from buildings.
What is all of this about? In Trump's case, you don't have to follow the money. All he's about is money. His life's narrative—surfacing surprisingly frequently during the campaign and his Presidency—is about how rich he is, how he has put himself and his money first in determining all of his life decisions.
Trump has three adult children who work with him. The one people have put the most hope in is Ivanka, who has indeed endorsed several projects as her own "label"—most notably, women's entrepreneurship for which her father has promised $50 million.
This led to these headlines in May:
May 21, 2017: Saudis And The UAE Will Donate $100 Million To A Fund Inspired By Ivanka Trump
May 22: Ivanka Trump praises progress of women's rights in Saudi Arabia.
Journalists were asked to leave the room before issues around women's equality could be brought up, such as women not having the right to drive, go anywhere alone or be included in public life.
US officials did not raise these concerns, as noted by the US state department’s past reports on human rights.
It's possible Ivanka is doing the best that she can and making a positive contribution to the Trump administration and women's rights. I can't say. But her values have been evidenced to date by marrying a fellow wealthy New York real estate developer and by her promoting her endless lines of Ivanka Trump brand clothes, shoes, perfume, accessories, etc.
Nothing in Ivanka Trump's past gives any indication that her public domain has been about anything but making money.
The Russian Conflict
The news has been dominated by Donald Trump's steering first his campaign, and now the United States, towards Russia and its leader, Vladimir Putin, Russia's long-term dictator. Putin first came to power in 1999. He has been leading Russia for the last 20 years despite a faltering economy, denial of individual rights, and a kleptocracy comprising billionaires whom Putin grants dominance in one or another of the surviving Russian profit centers.
Why does Trump curry favor with Putin? Some attribute it to his admiration for a despot's power. Others note a strange psychological hold Putin seems to have on Trump. Alternately, people wonder about the amount of investment Russians have in the Trump brand.
At a real estate conference in 2008, Donald Trump Jr. said in a widely circulated comment that Russian money was “pouring in” to the Trump business:
“... In terms of high-end product influx into the U.S., Russians make up a pretty disproportionate cross-section of a lot of our assets, say in Dubai, and certainly with our project in SoHo and anywhere in New York. We see a lot of money pouring in from Russia."
Meanwhile, when people like Bill O'Reilly and Joe Scarborough (formerly of Fox News and current MSNBC host) ask Trump about Russia's long track record of assassinating political objectors and independent journalists, Trump casually answers as follows:
In an interview with Fox News's Bill O'Reilly that aired before the Super Bowl, O'Reilly declaring to the president that “Putin is a killer.”
Unfazed, Trump didn't back away, but rather compared Putin's reputation for extrajudicial killings with the United States'.
“There are a lot of killers. We have a lot of killers,” Trump said. “Well, you think our country is so innocent?”
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In a 2015 interview on “Morning Joe,” Trump was pressed on the same issue and gave a similar answer.
“He kills journalists that don't agree with him,” the show's host, Joe Scarborough, pointed out.
“Well, I think that our country does plenty of killing, too, Joe,” Trump said.
The latest revelations of Trump/Russian collaboration
The Trumps can't be dissuaded, embarrassed, or deterred from lauding, from working with the Russians despite Putin and that country's totalitarian regime, incursions into neighboring countries, and interference with American elections. FOR THE TRUMPS, NONE OF THESE THINGS HAS ANY MEANING. It's like talking to a wall about these things to them.
And that comes to observing niceties like observance of historical alliances with European allies and avoidance of statements disparaging American government agencies and officials, things that the President notably ignored during the recent G-20 meetings of the world's leaders.
And, in the news currently, Donald Trump, Jr. and brother-in-law Jared Kushner were revealed to have met with a Russian representative about swapping dirt on Hillary Clinton before the election in return for promises to lift sanctions against the Russians. These sanctions were imposed on Russian officials involved in human rights abuses and corruption, including Obama administration sanctions imposed in February last year for Russian officials charged with human rights abuses including four who were involved in the 2009 death in prison of a corruption-fighting Russian lawyer.
In particular, the lawyer with whom Trump and Kushner met was known for specializing in one concern—the Magnitsky Act:
Ms. Veselnitskaya is well known for her lobbying efforts against the Magnitsky Act, a 2012 law that punishes designated Russian human rights abusers by allowing the United States to seize their assets and keep them from entering the country. The law so angered Mr. Putin that he retaliated by banning American families from adopting Russian children.
When confronted with this highly unusual meeting—one that breaks both with tradition and possibly the law—Donald Jr. was completely dismissive. Who would care about this swapping of dirt for lifting sanctions? And, so he tweeted, in response to conservative West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin's interview on MSNBC's Joe Scarborough show declaring such behavior morally and nationally reprehensible:
Media & Dems are extremely invested in the Russia story. If this nonsense meeting is all they have after a yr, I understand the desperation!
Who could care about any of these underlying issues, according to Trump family values! And we shall see if Trump family values have come to reflect those of the Republican Party, and the entire nation.