Juan Williams: The toxic legacy of Trump’s corruption

Back in 2016, then-candidate Donald Trump drew wild applause at his rallies by pledging to “drain the swamp.”

Trump tapped into something real: Public outrage about the grifters trying to get their hands on some of the zillions of dollars in the U.S. treasury.

How many former generals have gone on to work for companies seeking military contracts?

{mosads}How many of those generals pushed to continue the “Forever War” in Afghanistan, wrapped in the flag while enriching U.S. defense contractors, themselves and corrupt Afghan government officials?

“For nearly a decade, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) warned in report after report that fraud, waste, and abuse had wormed its way into the $145 billion U.S. taxpayers spent to rebuild Afghanistan,” USA Today reported.

Specific examples cited by the paper included “the squandering [of] $43 million on a useless gas station and $28 million on uniforms for Afghan soldiers with camouflage suited to a tiny fraction of the country.”

Reporter Craig Whitlock’s new book “The Afghanistan Papers” meticulously documents how defense and government officials misled the public about the Afghanistan mission to keep the war going and keep their paychecks flowing.

This corruption of government extends beyond the military.

A Pew Research poll in May found that only 22 percent of Americans trusted the federal government to do what is right “most of the time.” A tiny 2 percent thought the government would do what is right “just about always.”

Public corruption was out in the open during Trump’s administration, with people looking to reach into the government’s wallet staying at Trump’s hotel in Washington. Trump even proposed having the government pay for a summit of international leaders at his resort in Miami.

That flaunting of government power for personal and political gain led to Trump’s first impeachment.

The president’s private lawyer Rudy Giuliani and his cronies led an effort to strong-arm the Ukrainian president by withholding foreign aid in search of possibly damaging information on the son of Trump’s opponent in the 2020 campaign, Joe Biden.

Giuliani now faces possible criminal charges over his dealings in Ukraine. Giuliani’s home and law office were raided earlier this year by the FBI in a search for cellphones and other evidence.

Next month, one of Giuliani’s Ukrainian associates, Lev Parnas, will face a U.S. federal judge on a number of charges, including allegedly misrepresenting the source of more than $300,000 given to a pro-Trump committee. He has pleaded not guilty.

Meanwhile, Igor Fruman, who also helped Giuliani make contacts in Ukraine, pleaded guilty on Friday to soliciting a campaign contribution from a foreign national.

Newly revealed emails show that Kelly Craft, Trump’s ambassador to the United Nations, currently weighing a run for governor in Kentucky, directed business to Trump hotels. This is a blatant ethics violation that should disqualify the ambassador from public office.

“Ambassador Craft’s apparent eagerness to direct business to a Trump-owned hotel sends a signal that U.S. foreign policy is pay-to-play,” Jack Patterson, a spokesman for the government watchdog group American Oversight, told The Washington Post.

The Trump administration expertly played both sides of the “drain the swamp” game.

They distracted political supporters with promises to clean up the federal government corruption while cynically using the government to benefit themselves.

This duplicity from Trump contributed mightily to today’s lack of public trust in government.

Sadly, it gave an added push to millions of Americans open to extreme QAnon conspiracy theories holding that the federal government is controlled by Satan-worshiping pedophiles.

Tragically, it opened GOP base voters to the lie that the 2020 presidential election was rigged in Biden’s favor, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary. That lie led to insurrection as a mob stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 to stop certification of Biden as president.

It has also led deranged Trump supporters to threaten election officials.

{mossecondads}A Reuters investigation published last week found “more than 100 threats of death or violence made to U.S. election workers and officials, part of an unprecedented campaign of intimidation inspired by Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen. The response so far: only four known arrests and no convictions.”

The secretaries of state of Michigan and Georgia were threatened with death for refusing to overturn Biden’s victories in their states. 

Things have gotten so bad that a bipartisan group of election lawyers led by Democrat Bob Bauer and Republican Ben Ginsberg have created the Election Official Legal Defense Network to provide pro bono legal services to election workers under threats ranging from new GOP laws targeting officials with penalties to vigilante citizen lawsuits.

Some of the lawyers involved in the Trump-Giuliani scheme to bring bogus nuisance lawsuits against state election officials to overturn last year’s election are now being punished for their bad behavior.

“Sanctions are required to deter the filing of future frivolous lawsuits designed primarily to spread the narrative that our election processes are rigged and our democratic institutions cannot be trusted,” wrote federal judge Linda Parker, ordering the pro-Trump lawyers to reimburse the city of Detroit and the state of Michigan for the costs they incurred.

Before the 2022 midterm elections, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) need to prioritize ethics reform to repair the damage Trump did to public trust in government.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags 2020 presidential election Charles Schumer Corruption Disinformation Donald Trump Joe Biden misinformation Nancy Pelosi Rudy Giuliani

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