Donald Trump Archives - Page 4 of 231 - Florida Politics

Kevin Hernandez: Donald Trump’s dream team for economic success

The American public has long been yearning for a drastic change to the status quo.

Sadly, the past eight years have brought onto us sluggish economic growth, a wave of overregulation that drastically hurts the viability of our small businesses and, overall, an out-of-touch administration. It’s no surprise that Americans are fed up, and this year’s election proved that.

What has been needed, now more than ever, is for someone to shake up D.C. and repair an inefficient and inflated federal government.

With Republicans retaining the majority of both chambers of Congress, and a Republican president in the White House, it’s now time though to put rhetoric aside and demonstrate that there’s truly “A Better Way” for Washington to govern.

The burdens inflicted upon our nation’s entrepreneurs by an administration infatuated with bigger government, more taxation and overregulation can no longer be dismissed. After all, it’s those same entrepreneurs who are risking their own capital and, most importantly, creating roughly two-thirds of all U.S. jobs.

Thankfully, President-elect Donald Trump’s business acumen and pro-growth agenda has already translated into the outstanding selection of three key members who will serve on his Cabinet. It’s important to also note that these officials will be critically important in complementing the efforts of Speaker Paul Ryan’s Better Way agenda, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady’s efforts on tax reform and House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling’s efforts to roll back the Dodd-Frank Act.

Those key players of Donald Trump’s triangle offense for economic growth and small-business success are:

Steven Mnuchin, secretary, Department of the Treasury

With almost 20 years of experience working as an investment banker at Goldman Sachs, Mnuchin will bring a wealth of knowledge regarding economic and financial issues. Mnuchin also brings a particularly keen understanding of the importance of lending and access to capital, which entrepreneurs and business groups alike unequivocally prioritize as a key issue.

Working in lockstep with Hensarling and the president-elect’s pick for the Commerce Department, Wilbur Ross, Mnuchin will play a pivotal role in the rolling back of Dodd-Frank, which has negatively affected small and medium-sized business, along with our vitally important community and regional banks throughout the country. These banks have felt the squeeze caused by the vastly complex web of one-size-fits-all regulations intended for large banks, and have thus been unable to provide the access to capital desperately needed by entrepreneurs.

Addressing Dodd-Frank and reforming our tax code are two of Mnuchin’s immediate priorities that will alleviate some of the burdensome effects of overregulation.

Wilbur Ross, secretary, Department of Commerce

At 79, Ross, a billionaire investor, never imagined he would find himself reporting to someone. That quickly changed when asked to serve his country as the secretary of Commerce under President-elect Trump’s leadership, which he humbly accepted.

Ross will be responsible for working with businesses to promote job creation and economic growth.

His experience and success in turning around failing firms is unparalleled, and so is his approach to addressing these challenging investments. In a 2008 interview with NPR, Ross explained his hands-on approach to reviving a failing steel company by saying, “we got an enormous amount of good ideas from the blue collar workers. That fellow who has been standing behind a machine for 10 years, who knows it better than the people who built it, really knows what to do.”

That very approach that Wilbur Ross has had throughout his career and will soon bring to the Department of Commerce is illustrative of not only the refreshing leadership he will bring to the agency but also of the overall theme and direction of Trump’s wishes as incoming commander in chief.

Ross told CNBC that two of his priorities will be trade reform and increasing U.S. exports abroad.

Small and medium-sized business stand to greatly benefit from trade reform and an increase in exporting as they make up 98 percent of all U.S. companies involved in exporting.

Linda McMahon, administrator, Small Business Administration

McMahon is the underrated Cabinet pick in my opinion. A phenomenal addition to Trump’s team, McMahon will without a doubt bring the necessary experience, mindset and skills to unleash the potential of our country’s small business community, while effectively serving as the leading voice for small business and entrepreneurship.

As the co-founder of World Wrestling Entertainment Inc., McMahon certainly experienced the ups and downs of entrepreneurship. Scaling a company of 13 employees to a now public traded global enterprise with over 800 employees worldwide didn’t happen overnight. Rather, she cut her teeth as one of the country’s top female CEOs by resurrecting a once failing business from its ashes and turning into the global brand that it is today.

Already an advocate for female entrepreneurs with Women’s Leadership Live, an organization she co-founded, there is no doubt Linda McMahon will ensure women, along with minority entrepreneurs, are a top priority in the Trump administration.

The agency she will soon be taking over has a budget of over $10 billion and a loan portfolio of roughly $125 billion. In 2015, the SBA approved over 70,000 government-backed private-sector loans to small business throughout the country. McMahon will without a doubt be the champion we need on behalf of the American entrepreneur.

Our sluggish recovery from the 2008 recession and 2.1 percent average growth between 2010 and 2015 should serve as a lesson that big government policies and overregulation of industries don’t work. It’s time we listen to our small business community’s needs if we want them to continue being the driving force of our economic engine, and President-elect Trump has done just that by nominating Steven Mnuchin, Wilbur Ross and Linda McMahon.

It’s going to be a great four years for economic growth and small businesses.

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Kevin Hernandez is director of Government Affairs and Policy at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. He is also a fellow with the James Madison Institute, Florida’s premier free-market think tank.

 

Donald Trump denounces ‘disgrace’ of reports of Russian ties to him

A defiant President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday adamantly denied reports that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about him, calling it a “tremendous blot” on the record of the intelligence community if such material had been released.

The incoming president, in his first news conference since late July, firmly chided news organizations for publishing the material late Tuesday night. After weeks of scoffing at reports that Russians had interfered in the election, he conceded publicly for the first time that Russia was likely responsible for the hacking of the Democratic National Committee. “As far as hacking, I think it was Russia,” he said and quickly added that the United States is hacked by other countries as well, including China.

Trump’s extraordinary defense against the unsubstantiated intelligence report, just nine days before his inauguration, dominated a highly anticipated press conference in which he also announced a new Cabinet member, detailed his plans to disentangle himself from his sprawling global business empire, gave his outlook on the future of the “Obamacare” health care law and said he would soon nominate someone to fill the vacancy on the Supreme Court.

“I think it’s a disgrace that information would be let out. I saw the information, I read the information outside of that meeting,” he said, a reference to a classified briefing he received from intelligence leaders. “It’s all fake news, it’s phony stuff, it didn’t happen,” Trump said in a news conference that saw him repeatedly joust with reporters. “It was gotten by opponents of ours.”

Asked about his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Trump boasted that it is an improvement over what he called America’s current “horrible relationship with Russia” and did not criticize the Russian leader for any interference in the election.

“If Putin likes Donald Trump, guess what, folks, that’s called an asset not a liability. I don’t know if I’m going to get along with Vladimir Putin — I hope I do — but there’s a good chance I won’t.”

Trump, Vice President-elect Mike Pence and incoming White House press secretary Sean Spicer also denounced the report about Russia’s influence on Trump, and the incoming president said it never should have been released. He thanked some news organizations for showing restraint.

A U.S. official told The Associated Press on Tuesday night that intelligence officials had informed Trump last week about an unsubstantiated report that Russia had obtained compromising personal and financial information about him. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the official was not allowed to publicly discuss the matter.

Trump and President Barack Obama were briefed on the intelligence community’s findings last week, the official said.

Media outlets reported on the document late Tuesday and Trump denounced it on Twitter before his news conference as “fake news,” suggesting he was being persecuted for defeating other GOP presidential hopefuls and Democrat Hillary Clinton in the election.

The dossier contains unproven information about close coordination between Trump’s inner circle and Russians about hacking into Democratic accounts as well as unproven claims about unusual sexual activities by Trump among other suggestions attributed to anonymous sources. The Associated Press has not authenticated any of the claims.

Only days from his inauguration as the nation’s 45th president, Trump announced that he would nominate David Shulkin to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, elevating him from his current role as VA undersecretary.

He promised that a replacement for the health care overhaul would be offered “essentially simultaneously” with the repeal of Obama’s signature health law — something that would be virtually impossible to quickly pass given the complexity of the policy changes. Republicans agree on repealing the law but nearly seven years after its passage have failed to reach agreement on its replacement.

Trump has repeatedly said that repealing and replacing “Obamacare” was a top priority, but has never fully explained how he plans to do it. House Speaker Paul Ryan has said that the House would seek to take both steps “concurrently.”

Turning to his plans to build a border wall along the southern border, Trump said he would immediately begin negotiations with Mexico on funding his promised wall after he takes office. He again vowed that “Mexico will pay for the wall but it will be reimbursed.” Trump recommitted to his plans to impose a border tax on manufacturers who shut plants and move production abroad. While the tax policy could retain jobs, it would also carry the risk of increasing prices for consumers.

Trump also said he would probably name his choice to fill the vacancy left by the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia in about two weeks after the inauguration.

And he announced his plans for the future of the Trump Organization, bringing to the podium attorney Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, who worked with the Trump Organization on the arrangement.

Dillon said the Trump Organization would continue to pursue deals in the U.S., though Trump will relinquish control of the company to his sons and an executive, put his business assets in a trust and take other steps to isolate himself from his business. She said Trump “should not be expected to destroy the company he built.”

The move appears to contradict a previous pledge by the president-elect. In a tweet last month, Trump vowed to do “no new deals” while in office.

The lawyer said Trump would donate all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels to the U.S. treasury.

And pushing back against some ethics experts, Dillon said the so-called emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution does not apply to foreign payments to Trump’s company. While some ethics officials have said that foreign leaders who pay for rooms and services at his various hotels would run afoul of the constitutional ban on foreign gifts or payments to the president, Dillon referred to it as a “fair-value exchange.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

NextGen Climate running ad in Florida against Rex Tillerson’s nomination

In anticipation of Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearing to be the next U.S. Secretary of State on Wednesday, NextGen Climate is airing ads in Florida and five other states this week, telling viewers to contact their senators to oppose Tillerson when his nomination comes before the entire U.S. Senate.

Tillerson is the longtime CEO of ExxonMobil who was picked by President-elect Donald Trump to head the State Dept. last month, but his close affiliation with Russian leader Vladimir Putin has been a source of controversy with some senators.

The ad, “Protect America,” comes as Trump has been criticized for dismissing intelligence reports that found Russia conducted a campaign of cyber attacks to interfere with U.S. elections, and previously suggested that he would lift sanctions against Russia.

“Donald Trump has made his values clear — instead of working to support the American people, he’s nominating corporate and Wall Street insiders,” said NextGen Climate President Tom Steyer. “Rex Tillerson has shown he puts corporate interests over American interests. The Senate must protect the public by rejecting his nomination.”

Steyer is also blasting Tillerson on the environmental front, claiming that under his leadership, ExxonMobil had “one of the worst environmental records,” and is currently under investigation for lying about the dangers of climate change.

On Monday, over 75 people protested in Tampa in front of Senator Marco Rubio’s office, calling on him to oppose Tillerson when he votes on his nomination in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

NextGen Climate Action is a Super PAC focused on giving support to environmentally active candidates.

See the ad below:

 

 

Conservatives bashing ‘Hollywood’ depends on which actors do the talking

Meryl Streep must have known what she was in for when she spoke out against Donald Trump at the Golden Globe Awards on Sunday night.

Conservatives were outraged that, during her acceptance speech for a lifetime of excellence in Hollywood, she referenced Trump’s mocking of a disabled reporter during the campaign. Trump, indeed, emphasized the “bully” part of his public “pulpit” many times during his successful bid for the White House.

Streep used her pulpit to call him out.

“And this instinct to humiliate, when it’s modeled by someone in the public platform, by someone powerful, it filters down into everybody’s life because it kind of gives permission for other people to do the same thing,” she said to a nationwide audience.

Trump responded, as he does, with a tweet, calling her “overrated” (he’s wrong) and a “Hillary flunky.” That was the bugle charge for his supporters to trot the same “Hollywood elite” rap they use whenever someone in Streep’s position takes advantage of a moment to espouse a personal view.

Meghan McCain, daughter of U.S. Sen. John McCain, took to Twitter herself to note: “This Meryl Streep speech is why Trump won. And if people in Hollywood don’t start recognizing why and how — you will help him get re-elected.”

Maybe. We’ll see how it looks in four years.

While we wait, though, it’s worth examining that whole “Hollywood elite” business.

I mean, didn’t Ronald Reagan come out of Hollywood?

I seem to recall an appearance by Clint Eastwood with an empty chair at the 2012 Republican convention in Tampa. I think he qualifies as Hollywood upper crust.

Didn’t Arnold Schwarzenegger make a few big movies before becoming the governor of California?

Jon Voight? I remember talking to with him at that GOP convention. He is conservative to the core.

When he served as president of the NRA, Charlton Heston wrote the 11th Commandment when he challenged Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore to pry his gun “from my cold, dead hands.”

John Wayne was Republican. Loved him in “The Alamo.”

Fred Thompson? Before he became the GOP senator from Tennessee, he was in “Die Hard 2” and “Crimson Tide.”

Bob Hope? Republican.

Chuck Norris? Republican.

Vince Vaughn? Republican.

Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, Sly Stallone. GOP-times-three.

There are plenty more examples. Google tells a different tale than what conservatives were sharing on social media Monday.

To be fair, Hollywood — like all of California — trends liberal. No one is saying otherwise.

Liberals got a good laugh at Eastwood because what he did during the convention was, well, ridiculous. They laughed at Reagan, too, but I think the Gipper won that round. I don’t think anyone dared laugh at John Wayne. You can laugh at Chuck Norris if you want; I’ll call him sir.

Back to Ms. Streep.

She is an amazing actress and for Trump to say otherwise, especially in the way he did, simply proved her point about his bullying tactics.

But the same conservatives who say they don’t care what Hollywood folk say about anything would have stopped traffic to listen if Reagan, Eastwood or any of those others I mentioned were doing the talking.

Protesters in Tampa tell Marco Rubio to hold Rex Tillerson accountable during confirmation hearing

Rex Tillerson‘s confirmation hearing for Secretary of State begins Wednesday morning at 9 a.m., and dozens of activists in Tampa want to make sure that Marco Rubio holds Tillerson’s feet to the fire during that hearing.

At a rally in front of the Senator’s district office in Tampa’s Westshore area on Monday afternoon, approximately 75 people stood alongside Kennedy Boulevard denouncing Tillerson, with many critics mentioning his close ties to Vladimir Putin and the Russian government as a reason to oppose his nomination.

“Marco Rubio can stop this madness of Rex Tillerson’s appointment, and we’re out here to stand by him and say we agree with your concerns and thank you for looking out for us. You can be the one that stops this,” said Dayna Lazarus with Organize Now in Tampa.

Lazarus isn’t overhyping Rubio’s power in the confirmation process. With Republicans having just a one-seat majority on the 19-member Foreign Relations Committee, Rubio’s opposition — combined with ten Democrats on the panel — could keep the nomination from advancing out of committee, although his nomination would still ultimately come up before the entire U.S. Senate.

Rubio has already expressed some skepticism about Donald Trump’s nomination of Tillerson, who built a close relationship with Putin through his leadership as CEO of ExxonMobil. Putin awarded Tillerson with Russia’s Order of Friendship in 2013, a special honor bestowed upon foreign citizens who contribute to Russia’s culture, economy or international relations.

Rubio’s initial reaction to the pick wasn’t positive.

Rubio later said that he had “serious concerns about Tillerson’s nomination.

Rubio “has a responsibility to the state of Florida” to thoroughly vet Tillerson, said Marina Welch, who is heading up the Tampa Bay area region’s trip to Washington for the Women’s March on D.C. the day after Trump’s inauguration on January 21.

“We are out here to show Senator Rubio that we support his skepticism about this Rex Tillerson appointment, ” said Kent Bailey, chair of the Tampa Bay area chapter of the Sierra Club. “We want him to feel supported in doing the right thing, the courageous thing in standing up to the expected appointment of a man who has no business being Secretary of State, a man who has been Putin’s partner in crime for decades.”

Referring to the report that in 2001 Tillerson became the long-time director of a US-Russian oil firm based in the tax haven of the Bahamas, Bailey said that was a very profitable relationship for both Tillerson and Putin. “Tillerson got a friendship award from Putin just months before Russian invaded the Crimea and went into Ukraine. Our country put sanctions on Russia, which Rex Tillerson publicly and loudy argued against.”

About halfway through the event, protestors began chanting, “Reject Rex! Reject Rex!” Later, group of five were allowed to enter Rubio’s office and tell his staffers their feelings about why they want him to reject Tillerson.

On NBC’s Meet The Press on Sunday, Arizona Sen. John McCain and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham both said they still have questions about they can support Tillerson.

There were many in the crowd who are also suspicious of Tillerson when it comes to his stance on global warming. In a 2012 speech, Tillerson said about the issue (which he does believe is a problem) that,”We have spent our entire existence adapting. We’ll adapt,” he said. “It’s an engineering problem and there will be an engineering solution.”

“Who’s going to pay for this engineering problem?” asked Tampa activist Jim Shirk at the protest. “Is he foisting off the response to global warming on everybody else except the people causing it?”

Tillerson’s confirmation hearing begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesday in Washington.

 

Charles Canady may be off Donald Trump’s Supreme Court wish list

The Above The Law legal website is “handicapping Donald Trump’s Supreme Court shortlist” – and Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady isn’t on it.

“In case you missed it over the holidays, Jan Crawford of CBS News, one of the most plugged-in Supreme Court reporters around, revealed Trump’s five finalists” to replace the late Antonin Scalia, who died last February.

In alphabetical order, they are Judge Steven Colloton (8th Cir.) of Iowa; Judge Thomas Hardiman (3d Cir.) of Pennsylvania; Justice Joan Larsen of Michigan; Judge William Pryor (11th Cir.) of Alabama; Judge Diane Sykes (7th Cir.) of Wisconsin, according to Crawford.

“These five judges all appeared on Trump’s first SCOTUS list of 11 names, suggesting that his supplemental list of 10 names might represent something of a second tier,” ATL reported.

Canady’s name was on that second list.

The former lawmaker has been one of two reliable conservative votes on the state’s highest court, along with Ricky Polston. But now joining them is conservative jurist C. Alan Lawson, replacing retired Justice James E.C. Perry.

Canady, a Lakeland native, served three terms in the Florida House of Representatives (1984-90) and four terms in the U.S. House of Representatives (1993-2001) as a Republican, rising to chairman of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution.

He became general counsel to Gov. Jeb Bush, who later appointed him to the state’s 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland in 2002, the bio says.

Gov. Charlie Crist then named him to the state Supreme Court in 2008. Canady also served as the court’s chief justice in 2010-12.

 

Marco Rubio puts Russian in political oppression spotlight – and calls out Vladimir Putin

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio restarted his social media campaign to highlight political prisoners worldwide Monday, this time spotlighting a Russian imprisoned under President Vladimir Putin for “unauthorized assembly, and calling out Putin by name.

“#Russia must immediately and unconditionally release prisoner of conscience Ildar Dadin #expressionNOToppression,” Florida’s Republican senator tweeted Monday morning.

It’s a restart of an occasional serial of tweets and other social media posts that Rubio has been providing in late 2014 and the first few months of 2016 before his U.S. Senate campaign. Yet while it’s not the first time Rubio has highlighted a Russian, it comes with explicit denunciation of Putin – at a time when the Russian president’s relationship with president-elect Donald Trump and allegations of election campaign interference, together with reports of Putin’s own totalitarian approach to governing, are at the top of the news.

The tweet included a meme that declared, “Russian human rights activist Ildar Dadin was sentenced to two years in prison for participating in an ‘unauthorized assembly’ – in other words, expressing his right to freedom of expression. He is the first person convicted in Russia under Vladimir Putin’s new law that bars any form of public dissent. Status: Reportedly held in a prison camp in Siberia.”

Rubio brought his campaign to the Senate floor last May with a speech that included, “Every day, people are unjustly detained, they’re tortured, publicly shamed, and murdered, often at the hands of their own government. And here’s what their crimes are: Simply disagreeing with the government… disagreeing whether through journalism, through blogging, through peaceful organizing, or for simply [believing] in a different religion.”

In the first few months of his campaign, which ran until last July, Rubio highlighted at least two dozen cases of politically-oppressed individuals in North Korea, Cuba, Syria, Pakistan, Iran, China, Venezuela, Egypt, Kenya, Turkey, Bahrain, Vietnam, Azerbaijan, Laos, Ethiopia, and elsewhere. He’s posted at least four on Russians, and called out Putin by name before, something he has rarely done with leaders of the other countries.

“With this effort, we will continue to shine a light on the courageous men and women who risk their lives every day fighting for basic human rights and democratic principles,” Rubio declared in a news release Monday. “While their oppressors may seek to silence them, #expressionNOToppression will serve as a voice for the voiceless.”

 

‘Little’ Marco Rubio holds big cards in Rex Tillerson confirmation

We all remember when presidential candidate Donald Trump stuck Republican opponent Marco Rubio with the label of “Little Marco.”

It’s hard to say if that insult led directly to Trump’s sizable thumping of Rubio in the Florida primary, but it’s worth mentioning because “Little” Marco holds perhaps the biggest card in Trump’s push to confirm Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State.

Rubio sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, where Tillerson is expected to appear Wednesday as part of the formal confirmation process. It’s a 21-person committee, with Republicans holding a one-seat majority.

It’s shaping up as a showdown between principle and politics, and the spotlight is on Rubio.

All 10 Democrats are likely to vote against Tillerson, given the ExxonMobil CEO’s close business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin. That relationship has been a problem for Rubio as well, a fact underscored when Florida’s junior senator tweeted last month: “Being a ‘friend of Vladimir’ is not an attribute I am hoping for from a Secretary of State.”

When Trump tabbed Tillerson to what arguably is the most important non-elected position in his cabinet, Rubio responded with a statement that read in part, “I have serious concerns about his nomination. The next secretary of state must be someone who views the world with moral clarity, is free of potential conflicts of interest, has a clear sense of America’s interests, and will be a forceful advocate for America’s foreign policy goals.”

For good measure, Rubio also has called Putin a “gangster and a thug.”

If Rubio breaks ranks with fellow Republicans, that would likely mean the committee would reject Tillerson’s nomination by an 11-10 vote. It still would be subject to a full Senate vote, but the impact of a thumbs-down in a GOP-controlled committee could be enough to hand Trump a stinging political defeat.

While Rubio has promised to give the nominee a thorough and fair hearing in the committee, you have to wonder what Tillerson could say that would sway his opinion. Rubio certainly has been feeling the heat in advance of the hearing, including a call from former Vice President Dick Cheney urging him to cast a “yea” vote.

A “no” vote likely would make him a pariah with a new president who has been known to hold a grudge.

Voting to confirm, in view of his past statements on Tillerson, could bring an avalanche of condemnation from critics who would label him as Trump’s puppet – and, by extension, Putin. That could make it difficult to take seriously anything Rubio says going forward.

This is shaping up as the most significant moment in Rubio’s political career. How he handles himself in this hearing could cast his image for years to come.

 

Days from inauguration, Donald Trump still owns/controls 500 companies that make up the Trump Organization

President-elect Donald Trump pledged to step away from his family-owned international real estate development, property management and licensing business before taking office Jan. 20. With less than two weeks until his inauguration, he hasn’t stepped very far.

Trump has canceled a handful of international deals and dissolved a few shell companies created for prospective investments. Still, he continues to own or control some 500 companies that make up the Trump Organization, creating a tangle of potential conflicts of interest without precedent in modern U.S. history.

The president-elect is expected to give an update on his effort to distance himself from his business at a Wednesday news conference. He told The Associated Press on Friday that he would be announcing a “very simple solution.”

Ethics experts have called for Trump to sell off his assets and place his investments in a blind trust, which means something his family would not control. That’s what previous presidents have done.

Trump has given no indication he will go that far. He has said he will not be involved in day-to-day company operations and will leave that duty to his adult sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr. The president-elect has not addressed the ethical minefield of whether he would retain a financial interest in his Trump Organization.

A look at what’s known about what Trump has and hasn’t tried to resolve his business entanglement before his swearing-in:

FOREIGN INVESTMENTS

Trump has abandoned planned business ventures in Azerbaijan, Brazil, Georgia, India and Argentina. The Associated Press found he has dissolved shell companies tied to a possible business venture in Saudi Arabia.

It’s unclear whether those moves are signs that Trump is dismantling the web of companies that make up his business. Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten has insisted none of the closures is related to Trump’s election. He calls them “normal housecleaning.”

The Trump Organization still has an expanding reach across the globe: The Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, is set to open next month.

Trump has said there will be “no new deals” while he’s in office. But Eric Trump, an executive vice president at the Trump Organization, told Argentinian newspapers last week that the company was open to another business venture in the country.

“We would like to find something,” Eric Trump told Clarin, as he toured a Trump building construction site. “We’ll find a project.”

The younger Trump did rule out expansion in Russia, at least any time soon.

“Is there a possibility sometime in the next 20, 30 years we end up in Russia? Absolutely. Is it right for us right now? Probably not,” Eric Trump said, in a video interview with La Nacion posted on the newspaper’s website.

Asked about the potential for conflicts of interest if the business continues to operate, Eric Trump compared the separation between the Trump-led government and Trump-led company to the separation between church and state. “These two things will be unfailingly separate,” he said, adding, “we will not share functions.”

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DOMESTIC BUSINESSES

Of Trump’s U.S. portfolio, no venture has become more emblematic of the potential conflicts of interest facing Trump than his hotel at the Old Post Office in the nation’s capital. The federal government, which he soon will oversee, holds the lease on the building he turned into a sparkling luxury hotel that opened shortly before Election Day.

The terms of Trump’s contract with the government expressly prohibit elected officials from having a financial interest in the property. Democratic senators said the General Services Administration told them that the moment Trump takes office, he would violate the terms of his contract

Neither GSA nor Trump transition officials responded to inquiries about what steps, if any, Trump has taken with regard to that contract provision.

Trump is still listed as a producer for the reality TV show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” He has said he will not spend time working on the show. Financial disclosures he filed during the campaign show his company, Trump Productions, earned about $5.9 million from “The Apprentice” shows in 2015.

Trump has a considerable amount of business debt that could put creditors in the position of having leverage over an enterprise with close ties to the U.S. president and his family. Last May, Trump reported on his financial disclosure that he had at least $315 million in debt related to his companies. The disclosed debt, mostly mortgages for his properties, is held by banks, including Deutsche Bank and investors who bought chunks of the debt from the original creditors.

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CHARITIES

Last month, Trump announced that he would shutter his charity, the Donald J. Trump Foundation, to avoid conflicts of interest.

The decision came after the foundation admitted in a tax filing that in 2015 and an unspecified number of previous years it violated IRS prohibitions against self-dealing, broadly defined as using charity money or assets to benefit Trump, his family, his companies or substantial contributors to the foundation.

The New York attorney general’s office has said the foundation cannot dissolve until it completes its investigation into whether Trump used the foundation for personal gain. The attorney general’s office has not said whether the investigation will be wrapped up by Trump inauguration.

Eric Trump has decided to shut down his charity, which primarily raised money for St. Jude’s children’s hospital, to pre-empt conflicts of interest. That move came after the younger Trump was found to be offering in a charity auction a coffee date with his sister, Ivanka Trump, who is expected to take a position in the White House.

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FAMILY

Questions remain about how Ivanka Trump and husband Jared Kushner, who is planning to advise the president, will separate from their own businesses.

On Saturday, representatives for Kushner told the AP that he has been talking with the Office of Government Ethics and is exploring taking steps to disentangle himself from his business, The Kushner Companies, in preparation for taking a White House role.

Under those plans, Kushner representatives say he would resign as CEO of the real-estate development business, which has been involved in some $7 billion in acquisitions in the past 10 years.

Kushner would divest “substantial” assets including his stake in a New York City skyscraper that has been the subject of months of negotiations between Kushner and Anbang Insurance Group, a real estate giant with close ties to the Chinese government. Kushner’s negotiations with the company were first reported by The New York Times.

Ivanka Trump, in addition to serving as an executive at her father’s company, has developed a lifestyle brand selling shoes, jewelry and other products. She caught heat after her fine jewelry company marketed the $10,800 bracelet she wore during a postelection “60 Minutes” interview with her father.

Representatives for Ivanka Trump and her companies did not respond to requests for comment about her business plans. In order to take posts in the administration, both Kushner and Ivanka Trump would need to argue that a federal anti-nepotism law that bar officials from appointing relatives to government positions does not apply to them.

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LAWSUITS

Trump also is set to take office while battling a number of lawsuits. The president-elect sat for a videotaped deposition on Thursday involving a dispute with a celebrity chef who pulled out of a deal to open a restaurant at his new hotel in the Old Post Office building. When Jose Andres scuttled his plans for the restaurant citing Trump’s campaign comments about some Mexican immigrants being rapists and criminals, The Trump Organization sued him for breach of contract.

Trump also sued another celebrity chef, Geoffrey Zakarian, for similar reasons.

Trump did act to close out one of the highest-profile disputes, over his now-defunct Trump University real estate school. After his election in November, he agreed to pay $25 million to settle two class-action suits and one by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman that alleged the school misled and defrauded students. Trump admitted no wrongdoing and has yet to pay the fine, according to court records.

Republish with permission of The Associated Press.

Jan. 20, 2017: A day that will live in infamy

When a family member or another loved one dies of natural causes, we understand that death is the price we pay for life. We must accept it and count on memories to console us.

But how do you grieve for your nation? How do you move beyond the death of everything you held sacred about the land of your birth? Whose uniform you wore proudly? Whose virtues you have tried to teach to your children and to anyone else who would listen? When you know that the tragedy owes not to an act of God but to the malice of a man and so many of his supporters? How can you accept this? How can you rationalize it?

For me, Jan. 20 will be the saddest day ever. I don’t think I’m alone in that regard.

Donald Trump is the most undeserving, unqualified, and untrustworthy person ever to seek the presidency, let alone obtain it. He is a clear and present danger to our principles, our economy, our self-respect and our national security.

No one has put that better than J. M. “Mac” Stipanovich, a trusted adviser to two Florida Republican governors, expressed it in a Facebook post earlier this month.

“Ignorant, unprincipled and amoral,” he wrote. That was in reply to a friend who had wearied of “my constant carping” against Trump and had challenged him to state his three “foremost objections” to Trump’s presidency.

There’s no need to try to summarize here the vast evidence of Trump’s unprincipled amorality. Everyone is aware of it, although only some care. In a world bristling with economic rivalries and nuclear-armed powers, Trump’s ignorance is the greater danger than what he might steal.

“I am concerned,” Stipanovich explained, “about what Donald Trump does not know, the fact that he does not know what he does not know and will not listen to those who do know.”

Some Republicans, perhaps most, may relish what Trump will let the Congress do to the Affordable Care Act and to Medicare and Social Security despite his transparently worthless promises to protect them. Some will rejoice in the destruction of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Environmental Protection Agency, and in the neutering of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

But my hope is that there are still members of both parties who understand that character — defined as integrity, trustworthiness, fidelity to principle and fundamental decency — is what America has assumed in its presidents since the Constitution was written with George Washington in mind. It was to prevent the ascension of someone like Trump that the founders opted against direct election. Ever since, Americans and the world have looked to the presidency of the United States as an avatar of America itself. But what do we see now? What does the world see? A braggart, a bully, a libertine, a cocky ignoramus, an infantile personality in the body of a 70-year-old man who has never cared, even once, about anyone or anything other than himself, who breathes contempt for the four freedoms of the First Amendment, who craved the presidency for self-aggrandizement and whose election was sought and applauded by the most vicious people among us as a license to make America hate again. For the first time, Nazis and Ku Kluxers have helped elect an American president. Think about that.

And if that weren’t enough, he is an apologist and sycophant for a murderous foreign tyrant who means to eliminate the United States as an obstacle to reviving the Soviet empire and dominating Europe. John LeCarré, whose novels envisioned a mole secretly subverting British intelligence, never imagined a scenario as wild as that of the cousins, as he called us, being taken over so openly at the very top. The most unenviable job in the United States today becomes that of an intelligence officer who remains faithful to duty and principles.

I don’t know which is more discouraging — that such a person is actually president or that so many people voted for him knowing what he is. That he lost the popular vote to Hillary Clinton by nearly 3 million votes is some consolation but the awful truth is that he is in the White House and the radical Republicans in Congress no longer have anyone there to check their worst ambitions.

The awful truth is that even with Russia’s assistance Trump would not have won but for the racists who haven’t forgiven the rest of us for twice electing a black man, the misogynists who couldn’t abide the thought of a woman president, the cynical opportunists who saw in Trump a reactionary Supreme Court, and the idiots who swallowed Trump’s absurd lies along with the false equivalency the media assigned to Clinton’s mostly decent record and Trump’s utterly deplorable one. These people are not going away, although more of a few may come to regret their votes when their Medicare is sacrificed to the insurance industry, Social Security is sold out to Wall Street, and they’re forced to wait until they’re 70 to begin collecting what’s left.

Is American democracy dead? Can it be resurrected? The answers depend on those of us who do not celebrate Inauguration Day. What we must do, for love of country and self-respect, is to make ourselves heard every day in Congress, and especially in the Senate, where there are still some grown-ups on the majority side, and which can’t be gerrymandered like the House.

We must never, never give up. The United States of America is too precious to waste.

___

Martin Dyckman is a retired associate editor of the Tampa Bay Times. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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