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Joe Lieberman for FBI Chief? Oh, Hell No!!

devos-with-lieberman

Trump has a well-established record of appointing people as heads of federal agencies for the specific purpose of destroying those agencies or subverting their mission. And now we are informed that Joe Lieberman is Trump’s top choice to head the FBI after he fired James Comey. Wonder why?

There are so many things wrong with this, but let’s start with the fact that Lieberman is a senior counsel with the law firm of Kasowitz Benson Torres LLP, whose founding partner Marc Kasowitz happens to be Donald Trump’s lawyer on litigation matters. Indeed, Kasowitz put being Trump’s litigator first on his list of “notable representations” on the firm’s website. That is an enormous red conflict-of-interest flag.

Then there was Lieberman acting as a shill for Betsy DeVos during her confirmation hearings for Secretary of Education. She was a nominee so obviously unfit for that post that it took a tie-break vote by the vice president to get her confirmed, and yet there was Lieberman speaking for her and sitting side-by-side with her day after day during the hearings, presumably to lend her some shred of bi-partisan credibility.

The problem is that Joe Lieberman no longer has any credibility to lend. His journey from Democratic vice-presidential candidate in 2000 to Trump supplicant today is a sad tale of political narcissism and opportunism.

During the infamous Florida recount to determine the outcome of the 2000 election, Lieberman infuriated Democrats by undermining their legal argument that overseas votes that lacked postmarks or signatures should be disqualified, saying that all military votes should be given “the benefit of the doubt.” That alone would probably have been enough to tip Florida’s electoral votes to Bush in that razor-thin race.

Lieberman effectively bolted from the Democratic Party after he lost a primary challenge to run for senator from Connecticut in 2006. He then ran as the de facto Republican candidate (officially as an “independent”) and narrowly managed to win in a three-way race.  He capped his defection by endorsing John McCain against Barack Obama in 2008 and speaking on McCain’s behalf at the Republican national convention. During the Bush years, he was also an enthusiastic cheerleader for the Iraq War.

While Lieberman was still in the Senate, the Democratic leadership held its collective nose and continued to allow him to caucus with them, largely because they needed his vote for the battle to pass the Affordable Care Act. Characteristically, Lieberman double-crossed them, refusing to provide the crucial vote needed to extend Medicare to everyone 55 and over.

After the parties made their nominations in 2016, Lieberman did not endorse Trump and even did a little campaigning for Clinton, targeting Jewish voters in Florida who didn’t think she was pro-Israel enough. He might well have done her more harm than good especially among Bernie Sanders supporters and progressive Democrats who were already leery of Hillary, hated Lieberman for his betrayals, and thoroughly distrusted him. (Clinton lost Florida by about 113,000 votes.) One might suspect that Lieberman fully expected Clinton to win and was trying to mend bridges with Democrats and curry favor with what he thought would be the incoming administration.

Lieberman still continues to call himself a Democrat, though virtually no one else–including his former senate colleagues–considers him to be one any longer. Since leaving the Senate, in addition to working for Trump’s law firm, he has been the co-chair of No Labels, a supposedly non-partisan political advocacy group which urges politicians to put party affiliations aside “and do what’s best for America.” Yet during the campaign, when pressed to say something for No Labels about Trump’s racism, misogyny, and anti-science rants, Lieberman dissembled and avoided answering. No Labels includes Trump among its list of prominent “problem solvers“.

As Rolling Stone has pointed out, there has never been a politician appointed as head of the FBI. “Every past director served as either an agent in the bureau, a federal prosecutor or a federal judge prior to their nomination.” Lieberman has done none of those things. (He was attorney general of Connecticut for 6 years some 30 years ago.) Moreover, he is now 75 years old, which would make him 85 if he were to serve a full 10 year term.

The argument for Lieberman will be that he is independent and non-partisan, rather than that he has experience and competence in law enforcement.  However, his actions over the last 10+ years give ample reason to think that he would be about as “fair and balanced” as Fox News and that he would bend over backwards to accommodate Trump and his new buddies in this administration.

I think a more compelling reason for picking Lieberman, if Trump indeed decides to nominate him, is that this is just another spite nomination and another jab at the Obama legacy. What could be better than to put the FBI under a turncoat who rejected Obama in 2008 and again in 2012? The Trumpies may believe Lieberman still has Democrat friends in the senate who will vote for him–and, who knows, they may be right. If they do, they will be making a terrible mistake.

 

 

 

Paul Ryan: “What’s said in the family stays in the family.”

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Paul Ryan: “This is how we know we’re a real family here.”

Yesterday, the Washington Post reported on a conversation that took place last July 15 among House Speaker Paul Ryan, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, Republican Conference Chairperson Cathy McMorris Rodgers, and others. (The complete transcript provided by the Post is here.) The headline from the meeting (which happened the day after it was revealed that the Russians had hacked into the Democratic National Committee) has been McCarthy’s assertion that Putin was paying Trump. But to me, what came before is equally, if not more, interesting.

The group were talking quite seriously about Russian efforts to subvert Ukraine and the extension of such efforts throughout Europe.

Ryan: This is, this isn’t just about Ukraine.

Rodgers: So yeah, it is a, um…a way…it’s really a messaging…you know…they are…it’s a propaganda war.

Ryan: Russia is trying to turn Ukraine against itself.

Rodgers: Yes, and that’s…it’s sophisticated and it’s, uh…

Ryan: Maniacal.

Rodgers: Yes.

Ryan: And guess…guess who’s the only one taking a strong stand against it? We are.

Rodgers: We’re not..we’re not…but we’re not…

Okay, let’s stop here for a minute. What we seem to have here are expressions of considerable concern about the seriousness of Russia’s attempts to undermine Ukraine and the rest of Europe. Nobody is laughing. Ryan even calls it “maniacal”. There is some question about who the “we” is in Ryan’s remark about taking a “strong stand”–he could mean the US government (then still the Obama administration) or the Republican party. Rodger’s rejoinder of “we’re not” makes more sense if it’s the latter, as this conversation occurred during the run-up to the Republican convention when Trump had the nomination sewed up and the leaders of Trump’s campaign under Paul Manafort were working, successfully, to gut the Republican anti-Russian plank in the party platform.

Then it all becomes a little funny as McCarthy chimes in:

McCarthy: I’ll GUARANTEE you that’s what it is….The Russians hacked the DNC and got the opp[osition] research they had on Trump. [laughs]

Ryan: The Russians hacked the DNC…

McHenry [sic]: …to get oppo…

Ryan: …on Trump…and like delivered it to…to who?

McCarthy: There’s…there’s two people, I think, Putin pays…[CA Republican congressman Dana] Rohrabacher and Trump…[laughter]…Swear to God!

[laughter]

Ryan: This is an off the record…[laughter]…NO LEAKS…[laughter]…alright?!

Obviously, this can be looked at different ways. But the one undeniable thing that emerges out of this conversation is that the Republican congressional leadership, speaking frankly among colleagues, would spontaneously express the idea that Trump was in Putin’s pocket. And furthermore, no one denied it! Even as a joke, that says a lot.

Of course, the participants in this session initially denied that it ever took place. Only when confronted with the news that there is a recording of it did they change their tune, and say that it was all just a joke. That in itself, tells you quite a bit about their credibility.

My takeaway from this, is that Ryan and McCarthy and the rest of the Republican congressional leadership know full well that there is substance to RussiaGate, but they are so cynically bent on realizing their legislative agenda, that they absolutely don’t care.

And so they will continue to run interference for Trump as long as they can.

As Steve Scalise said:  “That’s how you know we’re tight.”

 

Straight Up Complicit: Every Republican in Congress

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Exactly three months ago I wrote a post with the title “Republicans, You Now Own the Cover-Up.” I just re-read it, and it could have been written today. Amazingly, the accumulation of revelations and stunning events like Sally Yates’ testimony, the Comey firing, and now Trump’s casually chummy disclosure of classified information obtained from a US ally to the Russian foreign minister and ambassador in an Oval Office meeting where Russian reporters were present but US journalists were not [deep breath!], none of that has changed congressional Republicans’ determination to look the other way.

When it comes to Trump, they see no evil and hear no evil. A few may mumble a little evil into their sleeves, but not one of them has had the cojones to say flat out that what Trump is doing is dangerous and wrong, much less call for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

The odious Mitch McConnell has already declared that there will be no special prosecutor. When asked about the latest scandal, he said that McMaster had refuted all of that, and added “I think we could do with a little less drama from the White House on a lot of things so we could focus on our agenda, which is deregulations, tax reform, repealing and replacing Obamacare.”

Never mind that Trump’s own tweets had left McMaster looking like a total fool and toady by completely undercutting the message that the National Security Adviser had been sent out to deliver. And all that business about giving codeword intelligence to the Russians? Don’t you worry your pretty little head about that, sugar! We’ve got more important things to be concerned about, like how can we give more tax breaks to the rich–if only that rambunctious kid in the White House could settle down a little.

There you have it in a nutshell. Republicans absolutely don’t give a shit about national security if it gets in the way of their agenda, which McConnell set out quite neatly. As for the “heroic” John McCain–well, even heroes get comfortable and complacent. He found the “reports” about Trump’s actions “troubling” and “disturbing”, but neither he nor any other of his Republican colleagues is yet ready to call for actual consequences.

This leaves one wondering what it would take. Maybe they’re waiting to see if Trump makes good on his claim that he could shoot someone in broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and no one would care. From what we’ve seen, Republicans really wouldn’t.

Longer Sentences, Drug Enforcement, and Voter Suppression

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Letter to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, March 19, 1986

Jeff Sessions says he’s not a racist. So who are you going to believe–him or Coretta Scott King? Let us place in evidence the order to US attorneys issued by Trump’s Attorney General yesterday to pursue the toughest possible charges and sentences against crime suspects, reversing Obama administration efforts to ease penalties for some nonviolent drug violations.

Why is that racist, you might ask? Don’t white people get arrested for drug offenses too? Indeed they do, though much less frequently, and they are even less often sent to prison for them. Let’s connect the dots and explain why Sessions’ hard line is not only bad policy in general, but disproportionately impacts minority communities and is actually an effective method of voter suppression.

The US imprisons people at rates shockingly higher than any other developed country in the world. The latest data shows that the US incarceration rate is 693 prisoners per 100,000 people. By way of comparison, the rate for Canada–a country with a similarly diverse population and higher percentage of immigrants–is only 114. Somehow our neighbors to the north keep less than 1/6 as many of their people in jail and still achieve a lower crime rate than we have. For a fascinating interactive comparison of incarceration rates by country and state, click here.

There are also great disparities among states in incarceration rates. Louisiana is the champion at 1,143/100K, followed closely by Georgia, Oklahoma, and Alabama (Sessions’ home state). In other words, in those states one person out of every 100 is in prison at any given time. Florida ranks number 8, just behind Texas. But even Massachusetts, which has the lowest rate at 330/100K, jails more people than any other developed country except Russia–that paragon of justice.

According to official figures from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, at the end of 2015 (the latest released statistics) some 2,173,800 adults were in federal, state, or local jails or prisons in the US. This is a slight decline from the peak in 2007-08, which resulted partly from a shift in policy under the Obama administration. Perhaps an even more astounding figure is that 6,741,400 people–1 in 37 adults in the US–were under some form of “correctional supervision”, i.e., in jail, prison, on parole, or on probation. If that population were a state, it would be the 15th largest in the country–just after Massachusetts and just ahead of Arizona.

1_Total_adult_correctional_population_1980_2015

The huge increase in incarceration started slowly in the 1970s and then exploded in the 80s and 90s as the War on Drugs became a priority in the Reagan and subsequent administrations. With the flood of drug arrests and convictions, more prisons sprang up around the country to house the convicts, creating virtually a new prison industry including private for-profit prisons.

According a 2008 report in the New York Times, drug arrests shot up from around 581,000 in 1980 to l.9 million in 2006. More than 80 percent of arrests were for possession, rather than sale or manufacture. And four out of 10 arrests were for mere marijuana possession, according to FBI data.

But the War on Drugs impacted quite differently depending on whether you happened to be black or white.  According to a 2008 Human Rights Watch report cited by the NYT, blacks were arrested on drug charges at rates that were 2.8 to 5.5 times as high as those of whites even though studies had shown no significant difference in propensity to use drugs between blacks and whites in the US. For black men, arrest rates were up to 12 times that for white men in some places.

The disparity of incarceration rates between blacks and whites in general is astoundingly high, and perhaps surprisingly the greatest disparities occur in states not stereotypically associated with overt racism. A 2016 analysis of official data published by the Sentencing Project found that nationwide African Americans are incarcerated in state prisons at a rate that is 5.1 times that of whites. In five states (Iowa, Minnesota, New Jersey, Vermont, and Wisconsin), the disparity is more than 10 to 1. The study found that in eleven states, at least 1 in 20 adult black males is in prison, and in Oklahoma, the state with the highest overall black incarceration rate, 1 in 15 black males ages 18 and older is in prison.

The mass incarceration of black men has had a devastating effect in communities across the US in all sorts of ways. (See Ta-Nehisi Coates’ brilliant 2015 exploration of this scourge published in The Atlantic.) But one of the malign effects of the War on Drugs was the elimination of voting rights for people convicted of drug charges.  Again, because of the disproportionate imprisonment of blacks, this has in turn had a much greater effect on voting by black people than on whites.

All states except Maine and Vermont have some form of “felon disenfranchisement”, but 12 states permanently strip voting rights from those convicted of felonies.  According to a 2014 Sentencing Project report, “Nationwide, one in every 13 black adults cannot vote as the result of a felony conviction, and in three states—Florida, Kentucky, and Virginia—more than one in five black adults is disenfranchised.”

The use of such laws to keep black people from voting originated in the 19th century in the South following reconstruction. It was deliberate then, and it sure looks deliberate now. According to an op-ed piece published by the New York Times, some 6 million people (of all races) currently can’t vote because of these laws. In Jeff Sessions’ Alabama, an estimated 7.2 percent of all adults and 15 percent of black adults have lost their right to vote for this reason.

For a while there in the Obama years, it seemed as if the tide had begun to turn, with a growing recognition–even among some Republicans–that mass incarceration didn’t keep us safer and that the War on Drugs had been a colossal failure and social disaster. Seven states and the District of Columbia have legalized recreational use of marijuana. The federal prison population had started to decline, and use of private prisons was starting to be curtailed.

Then came Trump and Sessions, telling lies about crime and “voter fraud.” Sessions wants to go back to aggressive enforcement of drug laws, presumably including places where marijuana is perfectly legal.

White racists have learned that there are other ways to keep minorities “in their place”, and there are many ways the Republicans have found to suppress voting among blacks and other people who oppose them. They’re not going to give up this one easily. Wouldn’t it be sweet irony if both Trump and Sessions wound up in prison themselves?

Ousting Scientists From EPA Board (and Other Low-Profile Outrages)

ClimateDemo

Trump’s first 100 days were super busy with what Steve Bannon calls “regulatory deconstruction”.  Here are three new items that have come to light in the press just since the 100 day mark. See if you can discern a pattern here.

Replacing scientists with corporate flacks on EPA boards.  According to the New York Times, the EPA has dismissed 5 scientist members of the agency’s 18-member Board of Scientific Counselors.  The spokesman for EPA head Scott Pruitt said he was considering bringing in corporate representatives to fill the vacated positions. “The administrator believes we should have people on this board who understand the impact of regulations on the regulated community.” The move was denounced by the president of the Union of Concerned Scientists as “part of a multifaceted effort to get science out of the way of a deregulation agenda.”  Basically, this amounts to replacing independent academic scientists with representatives of the industries the EPA is charged with regulating.

This move came after the House passed a bill to change the composition of another EPA board, the 47-member Science Advisory Board, to increase the number of members from industry. This board advises on what should be researched and the scientific integrity of EPA regulations. The bill was written by the chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Lamar Smith (R – Texas, naturally) who is an aggressive climate change denier. As is, of course, the EPA’s new administrator.

Trump has proposed slashing the EPA budget and is rescinding Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water. Recently, the EPA has removed climate data from public view on its website, and announced that the website would be “undergoing changes” to better represent the new direction the agency is taking.

Re-deregulating Wall Street.  Does anyone still remember the economic crash of 2008? Two things that came out of that disaster and the Great Recession that followed were the Dodd-Frank bill, aimed at curbing risky lending and investment practices by banks, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which enforces consumer protection laws and scrutinizes the practices of  businesses selling financial products and services.

Now the Republican-dominated House has reported out of committee the “Financial Choice Act”, designed to gut both Dodd-Frank and the CFPB, which has turned out to be a remarkably effective agency.  The bill would repeal about 40 provisions of Dodd-Frank, ostensibly to relieve struggling local and regional banks overburdened by regulations imposed by that bill. However, the data show that these banks are actually doing quite well under those supposedly onerous regulations.

Republicans have always hated the CFPB, partly because of its association with Elizabeth Warren and partly because it, well, protects consumers. The Financial Choice Act would remove some of the agency’s powers and replace its guaranteed funding from the Federal Reserve with whatever Congress decides would be the appropriate amount. With the Republicans controlling Congress, you can imagine how that would work out–killing the agency by starving it of operating funds, a playbook that’s already being employed in other parts of the government.

One of the more esoteric parts of the bill involves financial rating companies (like Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s), which assign grades to financial securities based on their risk. You may recall that a major factor that precipitated the 2008 crash was that these companies gave absurdly high ratings to “derivative” bonds (which were so complicated that no one really understood them) based on very risky subprime mortgages, which then failed and nearly brought down the entire US economy. Dodd-Frank imposed new accountability measures on the rating companies, which the Republican bill would roll back. According to the NY Times, company CEOs would not be required to attest to internal controls over processes used to determine ratings, and the bill would rescind the requirement to confirm that a rating was not influenced by its business activities. Moreover, it would protect the ratings industry from being opened up to new firms and increased competition.

It would appear that this administration and congressional Republicans learned nothing from the Great Recession and are bent on restoring the lax regulatory regime that led to it by giving Wall Street and the banking industry everything they want.

This brings us to Betsy DeVos’s Department of Education, which is changing regulations to make student loans riskier, more expensive, and more burdensome for borrowers, according to the New York Times.  Under DeVos, the department has weakened accountability of the companies that administer student loans. It has make it harder to apply for, and keep enrolled in, repayment programs scaled to borrowers’ incomes. And it is allowing banks to charge higher fees–up to 16 percent of the loan balance–if they fall behind.

The Education Department outsources servicing of student loans to private companies. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (see above) has documented  thousands of cases where these companies have lost or misdirected payments or paperwork or charged higher interest rates, resulting in serious problems for borrowers. The Department parcels out contracts based on metrics, but didn’t consider whether the contractor engaged in illegal practices until the Obama administration required it. Now under DeVos, the Department has reversed this directive. The same goes for punitive fees charged for falling behind in payments–the Obama administration imposed limits which the Trump administration has reversed. And, of course, the Republicans want to kill the CFPB, as we have noted.

The federal student loan program, which now has more than a trillion dollars in outstanding debt, is not a free market where borrowers can shop around for lenders. Once the loan is assigned to a servicing company, it’s there for good. If the CFPB isn’t there to be a watchdog and if the Department of Education is serving the interests of the banks and servicing companies rather than borrowers, it’s quite clear who are the winners and who are the losers.

Once again this “populist” administration is screwing the average Joe who was naive enough to vote for the self-proclaimed champion of “forgotten America”.

The Casual Evil of Trumpcare

ACAdemo at capitol

Yesterday afternoon I went to an impromptu demonstration at the US Capitol as the House of Representatives was voting on a bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with…what should we call it? Trumpcare? Ryancare? Wedon’tfuckingcare?

The demonstrators chanted “Shame! Shame!” as congressmen emerged from the Capitol, which was basically what I feel about this sordid affair–shame to be living in a country where the dominant political party has no shame at all. Where the apprentice despot in the White House and his Republican enablers in Congress rejoice at the prospect of making daily life more precarious and expensive for millions of their most vulnerable countrymen. Blessed are the rich, for they shall receive tax cuts.

There is simply no credible rationale for the bill that just barely passed the House. It was cobbled together and brought to a vote in great haste for no reason other than to sooth the sting and humiliation of previous failures. Both Trump and Ryan just needed a legislative win and didn’t care what the impact of their bill would be. Indeed, the members who voted for it had not read the bill and didn’t really know what it contained. It had not been vetted in committee hearings or debated on the floor. Nor did they have any idea what it would cost or what the fiscal impact would be, because the Congressional Budget Office had no time to “score” it on those grounds. They didn’t care. It just needed to pass, because…you know…Obama.

One thing we do know is that the bill is a major tax cut for wealthy people. Those hurt the most will be the old, the poor, and the sick. For an initial analysis of the impact, click here. Two aspects really stand out as cynical and cruel. One is drastic cutbacks in funding for Medicaid, which provides insurance for low-income people. The other is that it eliminates the pre-existing conditions coverage requirement under the ACA, allowing states to opt out, which some certainly will.  The list of conditions that states could decide not to cover is truly amazing. Most people would be affected by them at some point in their lives.

The CBO report will probably be out next week before the Senate takes up the bill. But it is virtually certain that this version will cover even fewer people than the previous one, which was estimated to eliminate coverage for some 24 million Americans currently covered under the ACA. For some Republicans, especially those in the Freedom Caucus, this is a feature, not a bug. Their position is essentially that if you can’t afford health insurance, then tough shit.

What Trump actually thinks about all of this is anyone’s guess. The only thing that’s clear is that he wants to destroy anything associated with Obama, regardless of the consequences for actual Americans. Both he and the Republicans who voted for this abomination are claiming that this bill will cover more people at lower cost, which clearly is false, and they seem to believe that they can get the American people to swallow this lie. What matters to him is the “win”, not who gets mangled in the process.

The battle isn’t over yet, and the bill faces serious difficulties in the Senate, but it is entirely possible that party discipline will prevail there as well. The only way to defeat this is massive public opposition and pressure on Republican congressmen and senators from their home districts. They are on recess now. Let them hear from you!

 

 

Ivanka, the Perfect Apologist

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Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka on SNL

Who knows what’s going on behind the preternaturally composed and perfectly made-up mask that is the public face of Ivanka Trump? In some ways, she seems the polar opposite of her father. She’s polished where he is vulgar. She’s smooth where he’s abrasive. She purrs where he brays. She’s articulate where he’s incoherent. She even seems kind of nice, where he just seems mean and vindictive.

Ivanka has fostered the notion that she can act as the brakes on her father’s runaway train, that she alone can be the Trump Whisperer who can tell him when he’s wrong and he will listen to her. But is there any evidence that this is true? A lot of Americans, desperate for any ray of hope that someone can temper the orgy of destruction that Trump has unleashed, seem to have fallen for this idea.

But I’m not buying it, and I’m calling it for the bullshit that I think it is. I think she’s just as venal and mercenary as the rest of the Trumps, but more insidious because it’s all concealed in that chic and exquisitely wrapped package.

The New York Times just published an exhaustive (and rather sympathic) look into Ivanka’s role in her father’s administration to date. The only clear instance the journalists were able to document where Ivanka was able to change Trump’s position on anything was a brief positive mention of Planned Parenthood at one of the Republican debates during the campaign. That tiny victory has, of course, evaporated in his administration’s full-on adoption of the Republican party’s demand for defunding Planned Parenthood. Ivanka simply dodges when questioned about whether she supports abortion rights; she has never publicly taken a position on the issue. According to the NYT, Ivanka is claiming that she helped preserve and increase funding for women’s health in the government budget deal now in Congress, but there is no actual increase and the bill simply keeps spending at current levels. Moreover, there is nothing that would indicate that Ivanka had any particular influence on this.

Here’s what we do know: Ivanka has an office in the West Wing and is now officially part of her father’s administration, albeit in a supposedly unpaid (and very hazily defined) position as an adviser to her father. She evidently can chime in on anything she likes and is frequently included in meetings and social events with important foreign leaders as well as American business and political leaders. This cozy management style is in keeping with the privately-held family business model of the Trump enterprises, which remain extraordinarily opaque to external scrutiny. And, of course, her husband Jared Kushner has been handed a laughably enormous sheaf of portfolios ranging from reforming the VA to bringing about peace in the Middle East.  Basically, Ivanka and Jared seem to be Trump’s most trusted advisers on everything–there appears to be virtually nothing from which they are excluded.

All of this means that there are enormous opportunities for using their positions for self-enrichment, and federal ethics rules governing conflict of interest should be strictly imposed. But like her father, Ivanka has not divested anything and doesn’t plan to, but merely turned day-to-day operations of her business interests to her company’s president, Abigail Klem. According to Bloomberg News, she retains ownership, including the right to approve or veto deals and receive payments. She pays minimal lip service to the idea of complying with the rules, but her actual behavior appears to endorse her father’s position that ethics are for suckers.

Meanwhile, she sat next to Chinese President Xi Jinping at an April 6 dinner at her father’s Mar-a-Lago resort, on the very day that China gave provisional approval for three new trademarks which give her the exclusive right to sell Ivanka Trump merchandise to 1.4 billion people. Tut, tut…pure coincidence, of course! And during the transition, she sat in on a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe while her company was working on a deal with a Japanese apparel retailer whose parent company’s largest shareholder is owned by the Japanese government. Nothing to see here, folks.

Still, CBS News reported that according to one fashion analyst, Ivanka Trump’s company saw a 771 percent increase in sales between February 2016 and February 2017. Industry experts call that number “incredible” and “insane.” Well, surely that’s just that brilliant Trump management!

Ivanka’s “brand” plays off her carefully cultivated image as a “working mom” and entrepreneur. Her new book Women Who Work, released yesterday, is part of that self-promotion–a hybrid of feminist self-actualization and inspirational business manuals. As Jennifer Senior’s review of the book points out, the advice she offers isn’t exactly aimed at the stereotypical white female Trump voter, but rather at professional women who aren’t worried about coming up short on the monthly bills. Her women-who-work have “teams”, by which she seems to mean staff and domestic servants. “By the time Trump gets to her primer on maternity leave, she is, consciously or not, addressing an imaginary cohort of upper management and C.E.O.s. Back at work, she expects you to have a team.” But the real purpose of the book is a marketing campaign to reinforce the Ivanka Trump brand. Indeed, the very title is taken from a marketing theme launched on her website in 2014: #womenwhowork. Obviously, launching a book from the White House certainly can’t hurt business.  Ivanka says that profits from the book will go to charity, but as we have learned, Trump charity donations have a way of mysteriously disappearing.

Of the older trio of Trump offspring, Ivanka clearly makes a far more sympathetic apologist for her father than the oleaginous and repellent Donald Junior or poor bumbling Eric. There seems to be no occasion in her young life when she has ever rebelled even mildly against her father. Indeed, none of them seems ever to have uttered a single off-message sentence in public. After all, their father’s money set up all of the kids’ enterprises, and presumably they know which side their trust funds are buttered on.

As HBO’s brilliant satirist John Oliver points out, Ivanka has a remarkable ability to speak while saying nothing at all, which allows her listeners to project whatever they want to hear on her nebulous words.  (Watch his entire segment on Ivanka and Jared here.) Her mission is to humanize and normalize her father to the public, and she teasingly suggests that she can present a different point of view to him on subjects where they disagree. But she very carefully avoids ever revealing what those subjects might be.

But perhaps the best comedic response to Ivanka’s increasingly central White House role was the Saturday Night Live perfume comercial parody: “Complicit”.  Watch it here.

Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the greediest Trump of all? Hmmm, hard to say…