So much for the CEO president

So much for the CEO president
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Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpLincoln Project ad dubs Jared Kushner the 'Secretary of Failure' Pence: Chief Justice Roberts 'has been a disappointment to conservatives' Twitter bans Trump campaign until it deletes tweet with COVID-19 misinformation MORE defying Congressional subpoenas is like a corporate CEO defying a resolution of his board of directors. Trump ran as the CEO president. But any corporate board would have fired him without ceremony or hesitation.

Directors who fire rogue CEOs keep their jobs — shareholders won’t vote them off the board. But it’s different in Washington: Republicans in Congress could lose their jobs if they removed Trump because they need his base to get reelected.

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There are also differences in how corporate directors vs. members of Congress get elected. While it takes a majority of a company’s shares to elect a director, it could take only the 28 – 35 percent of voters who make up Trump’s base to swing elections to Republicans, so they remain obedient to Trump. Around 80 percent of public company stock is voted by sophisticated institutional investors with many sources of information. But 60 percent of non-college educated voters voted for Trump in 2016, and most got their information predominantly from Trump-biased sources.

If the White House were a C-suite, its corporate board would never tolerate even a fraction of Trump’s 1,400 conflicts of interests. He seems to have tailored foreign policy for personal financial gain. China awarded Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpTrump administration awarding M in housing grants to human trafficking survivors Deutsche Bank launches investigation into longtime banker of Trump, Kushner Watchdog group accuses Stephen Miller of violating Hatch Act with Biden comments MORE seven trademarks close to the time Trump announced that he would save Chinese telecommunications company ZTE from failing by lifting the U.S. ban on selling it much-needed parts. Also around that time, China loaned $500 million to an Indonesian resort featuring Trump-branded properties. Trump refused to punish Saudi Arabia or its Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman for the journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder and admitted that the Saudis paid his businesses of hundreds of millions of dollars. The ZTE and Saudi moves were in defiance of strong bipartisan objections in Congress.

A corporate CEO wouldn’t survive even one serious investigation of wrongdoing. Today there are 16 ongoing federal, state and Congressional investigations of Trump and his associates, probing Russian meddling in the 2016 election, campaign finance practices, inauguration funding, bank fraud, money laundering, tax fraud, obstruction of justice, misusing his office for personal gain, charitable foundation abuses, employing undocumented persons, and violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. Seven Trump associates were indicted and found or pleaded guilty as a result of the Mueller investigation and Mueller listed ten types of Trump behavior that suggest obstruction of justice. No corporate board would tolerate this. 

Nor would it keep a CEO who publicly lied as much as Trump. Trump has told more than 9,000 “false and misleading statements”  since taking office, including some so blatant that they cast doubt on his capacity to recognize the truth, suggest scorn for America’s electorate and Congress, and disregard for the country he’s supposed to serve. But Trump’s base either believes him or doesn’t care, so Republicans won’t remove him.

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Any corporate board would be alarmed by the turnover in Trump’s administration, the number of unfilled leadership positions and temporary/acting replacements. He holds the records for White House, cabinet and single department turnovers and has over a dozen people in 'acting' status in high-level jobs. Temporary heads and acting officials make ineffective leaders. They’re not perceived as having complete authority. Their subordinates wonder how long their new bosses will be there. Turnover also begets turnover. Employees who lose bosses often lose their sense of purpose and worry they’ll be next, so they move on.  This has created turmoil in Trump’s administration. 

At least five of the seven members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff will be replaced this year. Trump also replaced Defense Secretary Mattis with Pat Shanahan as acting Defense Secretary. Before Trump, DOD had never gone two months without a Senate-confirmed Defense Secretary. Under Trump, that time has doubled. The Department has at least six high-level civilians in acting capacities.

Trump replaced his chief of staff with Mick Mulvaney and his Homeland Security Secretary with Kevin McAleenan — both acting secretaries. Without even announcing it, he appointed Matthew Albence as acting deputy investigations director of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement in place of Peter Edge, sidelining the investigations unit and provoking a “full-fledged morale crisis” at ICE. About the same time, Trump removed Secret Service Director Randolph Alles.

Federal agencies like these are responsible for keeping Americans safe.  They defend our borders and thwart cyber-attacks, criminal and terrorist activities that can kill civilians, disrupt our elections and electrical grids, and corrupt crucial IT systems. Yet Senate Republicans shamefully allow Trump to use acting appointees to dodge the Constitutional requirement that the Senate scrutinize and confirm high-level public officials to lead them. “I like acting [officials],” Trump boasts, “it gives me more flexibility.”

He’s no CEO president. CEOs are held accountable for their actions; Trump is not. Mueller’s report brings into sharp focus his willingness to shatter laws, accepted protocols and moral boundaries. But Republicans in Congress will not restrain him. As Sir Thomas Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury, might say to them if he were alive today, “It profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world ... but to win an election?”

Neil Baron advised the SEC and congressional staff on rating agency reform. He represented Standard & Poor’s from 1968 to 1989, was Vice Chairman and General Counsel of Fitch Ratings from 1989 to 1998. He also served on the board of Assured Guaranty for a decade.