One of the many things that sets apart Donald Trump’s first 100 days in office from those of any previous president is his near-total disregard for all Executive Branch ethics rules and conventions. The absence of transparency, the real and apparent conflicts that expose Trump and the first family to accusations of self-dealing, and the president’s unusually heavy reliance on billionaire CEOs, Wall Street insiders and special interest lobbyists, all take the potential for White House corruption to a level unseen since Watergate.
Trump bragged on the campaign trail that he was not beholden to wealthy donors, and pledged to “drain the swamp” in Washington. But unlike previous presidents, Trump has failed to release his tax returns or put his business assets in a blind trust. Members of his family, including his daughter, Ivanka—now an official White House adviser—continue to promote their own private business interests around the world. Trump has signed legislation that would weaken international anti-corruption regulations, has promoted his personal business ventures while in the White House, and faces a record 39,105 public ethics inquiries and complaints before the Office of Congressional Ethics.
Here are a few highlights of what might be called Trump’s first 100 days of corruption:
Trump lavishes rewards on wealthy donors who gave $1 million or more to his inauguration, including a private dinner and lunch, prime seating, and preferential booking at Trump International Hotel. Having rejected most of the voluntary caps on inaugural contributions imposed by previous presidents, Trump collects $107 million for the event—double the previous record.
Trump is sued by a team of prominent constitutional scholars, ethics lawyers and litigators for allegedly violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which bars the president from taking gifts, payments, or anything of value from foreign governments. The suit points to foreign officials’ payments for rooms and rentals at Trump-owned buildings and hotels.
Trump weakens Obama-era ethics rules by signing an executive order that purports to impose a “five-year” lobbying ban on lobbyists who leave government, but that contains multiple loopholes. The “ban,” moreover, involves no transparency or apparent enforcement, and Trump immediately begins issuing waivers.
Trump attacks Nordstrom, Inc., for dropping Ivanka Trump’s fashion line due to poor sales, calling the move “Terrible!” and causing a temporary drop in stocks. That same day, First Lady Melania Trump complains in a libel lawsuit that false reports that she previously worked for an escort agency could rob millions from her brand during her term as First Lady. (She later drops that language from the suit.)
The Office of Government Ethics tells the White House that there is “strong reason to believe” that counselor Kellyanne Conway violated ethics rules and misused her official position when she exhorted Fox News viewers, following the Nordstrom dustup, to “go buy” Ivanka Trump’s products.
Two of Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Jr. help cut the ribbon on the new Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, one of dozens of major international projects the Trump Organization is pursuing overseas, despite Trump’s pledge last year that “no new deals will be done” during his time in office.
A McClatchy-Marist poll finds that more than half of Americans already think that Trump has done something illegal or unethical due to his business conflicts while president.
China grants Trump preliminary approval for dozens of trademarks for hotels, spas, and other business ventures, settling a lengthy business dispute that precedes his election.
The White House counsel’s office rebuffs the recommendation of the Office of Government Ethics that it discipline counselor Kellyanne Conway for promoting Ivanka Trump’s products on Fox News, stating that her comments were made in a “light, offhand manner.”
The Cork Wine Bar sues Trump and the company that runs his Washington, D.C., hotel on the grounds of unfair competition, saying that the $200 million Trump International Hotel is siphoning away customers who want to “curry favor” with the administration.
Leaked documents show that Trump and his wife paid $5.3 million in taxes in 2005, a rate of less than 4 percent, and that he would benefit from his own tax reform plan.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation confirms that it is investigating the possibility of collusion between Trump campaign officials and the Russian government, accused of interfering in the presidential election.
The Trump administration rules that the Trump International Hotel does not violate the terms of its lease with the General Services Administration, prompting The New York Times to editorialize against what it calls “legal gymnastics that no lawyer could credibly defend.”
The Government Accountability Office (GAO) announces it will investigate whether Trump has taken adequate security precautions, including protecting classified information, at his Mar-a-Lago resort, and whether the president is turning over to the Treasury his hotel profits from foreign governments as promised. The GAO probe comes at the request of Senate Democrats after photos of an open-air national security discussion at Mar-a-Lago were posted on Facebook.
Ivanka Trump becomes an official government employee, serving as an unpaid adviser to the White House—the same status held by her husband, Jared, Trump’s son-in-law. She continues to run her own business and receive trademark approvals in China and elsewhere.
The White House announces it will not release visitor logs, a reversal of an Obama administration policy that made public nearly six million names of lobbyists and others visiting the White House. The announcement comes on the heels of a lawsuit by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government and others for refusing to disclose records of visitors to the White House, and to Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida resort and to New York’s Trump Tower, where the president regularly does business.
The White House confirms that Trump has no plans to release his tax returns, despite mounting public protests and opposition from lawmakers on Capitol Hill, including some Republicans, who argue that Congress can’t enact tax changes without knowing whether the overhaul would personally benefit the president.
Trump’s official 100th day is on April 29. One can only imagine what the next 100 will bring.