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Is Trump’s Idea To Fix a ‘Rigged System’ by Appointing Crooks Who’ve Played It?

Donald Trump’s cabinet choices are suggesting a governing philosophy along the lines of a corrupt municipal police force relying on gangsters to help it keep street crime held in check.

Trump has been naming top Wall Street bankers and hedge fund owners to staff his Commerce Department (former Rothschild banker and billionaire Wilbur Ross), Treasury (former Goldman Sachs executive and hedge fund executive Steve Mnuchin), and more recently, as top “economic strategy advisors”, Blackstone Group CEO Steven Schwartzman and JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, the bank chief who, together with Goldman Sachs’ Lloyd Blankfein and other too-big-to-fail bank leaders almost single-handedly cratered the US economy in 2008 with their casino betting on derivatives.

The president-elect has actually demonstrated a predilection for considering people who have played the “rigged system’ and even actual criminals (albeit unindicted ones in some cases) in his cabinet and White House advisory staff. Dimon, of course, heads a TBTF bank that was one of five that pleaded guilty last year to federal felony charges involving a huge currency manipulation conspiracy. Dimon had his bank cop a plea and pay a $5.6-billion fine that allowed him to avoid facing criminal charges himself for the bank’s admitted criminal behavior and even to stay on in his lucrative top spot running the felonious institution . Meanwhile, Trump is reportedly considering naming as secretary of state the disgraced former General David Petraeus, who in 2015 also copped a guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of “mishandling top-secret information” while he was CIA director (a post he had to resign), in order to avoid more serious felony charges of providing national security secrets to his paramour and biographer Paula Broadwell, and of potentially of lying about it to FBI investigators, also a felony. Petraeus, who did not have to do jail time under the plea deal, is still on two-year’s probation through April 23, 2017 though, and if appointed Secretary of State would have to report his new job to his probation officer, and also obtain advance permission for any work-related travel until that date — a historic first for a top federal government appointee. It would be kind of equivalent to the election of the epically corrupt Mayor James Michael Curley, who back in the early 20th century was elected and served one of his four terms as mayor of the city while in jail after serving time for felony corruption.

Either that or Trump, once inaugurated President, would have to pardon Petraeus before appointing him.

Could the idea of putting the gangsters in charge of national economic and foreign policy and economic regulation in order to fix what Trump calls a “rigged system” work as a governing philosophy?

I guess you’d have to ask how well having a crooked, mob-linked police force in New York, Philadelphia, Boston or Chicago worked in years past at keeping crime in check in those cities. The evidence is not particularly good, I would suggest, having lived in several of those venues.

We should also note that Trump’s idea of appointing top Wall Street weasels to key cabinet posts involved in regulating the economy is hardly unique to him. We can be sure that had the recent election been won by Hillary Clinton, who raked in millions of dollars both in personal gifts (excuse me: speaking “fees”) and in campaign contributions and donations to her family “charity” both before and during the campaign, would have also placed top bankers and capitalists in key cabinet posts, just as Presidents Obama, Bush II and Bill Clinton did in their presidencies.

That said, Trump’s choices seem particularly egregious in terms of the visuals, particularly in the cases of Dimon and potential appointee Petraeus.

Then again Trump himself has been good at skating around potential prosecution, as witness his personal “charitable” foundation’s settlement of a charge of self-dealing, and of a fraud case involving his so-called Trump “University,” as well as various other shady deals during his decades of building an allegedly billion-dollar real estate empire through creative use of the bankruptcy and tax laws.

Looking on the bright side, as Alexander Cockburn, co-founder with Jeff St. Clair of the magazine CounterPunch, once argued in defense of an article I had written for that publication comparing George W. Bush to Adolf Hitler, “All US presidents (with the possible exception of Warren Harding)” have shared the Fuerher’s “enthusiasm for mass murder.” Alex claimed that Harding was exempted from the charge because “he was too busy lining his pockets to engage in war crimes.”

Perhaps that could turn out to be the story with the incoming Trump presidency: Maybe we’ll get a president and a cabinet so infected with the greed bug that they’ll devote their time and use their power to enrich themselves and their friends, and spare the world the murderous policies of their predecessors.

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Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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