2018-09-12 / Editorial

DEN OF THIEVES

Michael N. Searles

Many of us are familiar with the Den of Thieves reference in the Bible. In Mathew 21:12- 13 which reads, “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.”

There are those whose businesses are shady and operate on the edge or over the edge of the law, and we usually find their behavior questionable or reprehensible. Knowing human nature, it is not surprising that these kinds of practices exist; however, we do not usually expect them to operate inside of government. During President Warren G. Harding administration, 1921-1922, the greatest and most sensational scandal in American politics occurred prior to Watergate. It is known as the Teapot Dome Scandal in which Secretary of the Interior Albert B. Fall found guilty of conspiracy and bribery was jailed earning him the dubious honor of being the first former cabinet officer sentenced to prison as a result of misconduct in office. Scholars reject the phrase, “History Repeats Itself,” but we may have the opportunity to see a scandal in the making that exceeds Teapot Dome. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson with close ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin became a director of a Russian subsidiary, Exxon Neftegas oil firm in 1998 based in a tax haven of the Bahamas. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross has deep financial involvement with three Russian oligarchs with ties to Vladimir Putin. Ross and the oligarchs share ownership and management of a European bank known for laundering Russian money and making bad loans. Ross and his organization also invested more than $1 billion in the troubled Bank of Cyprus with Ross becoming one of two vice chairman with Putin appointing the other. Secretary for Health and Human Services Tom Price purchased stocks in companies that he promoted as a Congressman and fought legislation that would hurt those same companies. EPA Chief Scott Pruitt engaged in numerous controversies from demanding first-class travel, requiring an expensive security detail, having federal civil servants seek employment for his wife, and renting a room in Washington at a discounted price owned by an energy lobbyist. Trump Campaign manager Paul Manafort resigned from the campaign over his business ties to the former Ukrainian president, now residing in Rus- sia. The saga continues with Manafort being convicted of eight counts of tax fraud by a Virginia jury. Cabinet Secretaries and presidential advisors who engaged in shady deals pale in comparison to those of President Trump. When American banks refused to loan Donald Trump money, he reached out to Deutsche Bank and borrowed hundreds of millions of dollars from it. Deutsche Bank was heavily fined by U.S. regulators for various dealings and were under investigation by the previous US Department of Justice to determine whether recent loans to Trump, under highly unusual circumstances, were backed by financial guarantees from Moscow. Deutsche’s other clients included accounts held by Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, her husband, Jared Kushner, who serves as a White House adviser, and Kushner’s mother. Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. celebrated their company’s international branding business and announced their intentions to expand it. In 2013, Donald Trump Jr. said, “The opportunities for growth are endless, and I look forward to building upon the tremendous success we have enjoyed.” Trump Jr. also cited prospects in Russia, Ukraine, Vietnam, Thailand, Argentina and other countries. No other President has had so many conflicting national security and financial interests in what only might be the tip of the iceberg. President Trump is under investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, NY Attorney General’s suit against the Trump Foundation, and a law suit for violating the emolument clause of the Constitution which prohibits receiving money from foreign government for stays at his hotels and rental property. Candidate Trump promised to drain the swamp but he should have warned the public that he would replace it with a den of thieves.

Return to top