Quick Takes: A Glimpse Into Trump’s Corruption of the Presidency

A roundup of news that caught my eye today.

* Before he even stepped foot inside the White House, Trump began to corrupt the presidency.

On Dec. 14, 2016, one month after his election, President-elect Donald Trump had a call with the prime minister of Vietnam…

But inside the State Department, officials were puzzled and concerned. Historically, post-election calls to heads of state are choreographed affairs. Careful deliberation goes into who the president-elect speaks to first and career diplomats deliver background briefings on issues to be raised and avoided.

The Trump transition operation ignored those conventions. The contact with Vietnam was not set up by the State Department. Instead, Trump’s personal lawyer, Marc Kasowitz, helped arrange the call.

Kasowitz had another client with a keen interest in Vietnam: Philip Falcone, an American investor with a major casino outside Ho Chi Minh City. After the Trump call, Kasowitz traveled to Vietnam with Falcone. They met with government officials as part of an effort to persuade Vietnam to lift a ban on gambling for its citizens. Such a shift would deliver vastly more gamblers to Falcone’s casino.

* Two federal courts have already put a halt to the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program. But the latest goes to the core of the argument and could keep the program alive.

In the biggest setback yet for the Trump administration in its attempt to end a program that shields some undocumented young adults from deportation, a federal judge ruled Tuesday that the protections must stay in place and that the government must resume accepting new applications.

Judge John D. Bates of Federal District Court for the District of Columbia said that the administration’s decision to terminate the program, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, was based on the “virtually unexplained” grounds that the program was “unlawful.”

The judge stayed his decision for 90 days and gave the Department of Homeland Security, which administers the program, the opportunity to better explain its reasoning for canceling it. If the department fails to do so, it “must accept and process new as well as renewal DACA applications,” Judge Bates said in the decision.

* This is the guy Trump has nominated to be Secretary of Veterans Affairs:

Dr. Ronny L. Jackson, the White House physician nominated to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, provided “a large supply” of Percocet, a prescription opioid, to a White House military office staff member, throwing his own medical staff “into a panic” when the medical unit could not account for the missing drugs, according to a summary of questionable deeds compiled by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

A nurse on his staff said Dr. Jackson had written himself prescriptions, and when caught, he asked a physician assistant to provide the medication. And at a Secret Service going away party, the doctor got intoxicated and “wrecked a government vehicle,” according to the summary.

The two-page document fleshes out three categories of accusations — prescription drug misuse, hostile work environment and drunkenness — that threaten to derail President Trump’s nominee. It provides details based on the testimony of 23 current and former colleagues of Dr. Jackson, many of whom are still in the military, who have spoken with the committee staff.

* It sure looks like members of the Trump administration are spending the majority of their time looking for ways they can hurt poor people.

U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson on Wednesday proposed raising the amount that low-income families are expected to pay for rent — tripling it for the poorest households — as well as encouraging those receiving housing subsidies to work, according to a legislative proposal obtained by The Washington Post.

The move to overhaul how rental subsidies are calculated would affect 4.7 million families relying on federal housing assistance. The proposal legislation would require congressional approval.

A couple of folks on twitter said it better than I could.

* Many Americans would rather not face this history. But we can’t understand where we are now unless we take an honest look at where we’ve been.

In a plain brown building sits an office run by the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles, a place for people who have been held accountable for their crimes and duly expressed remorse.

Just a few yards up the street lies a different kind of rehabilitation center, for a country that has not been held to nearly the same standard.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, which opens Thursday on a six-acre site overlooking the Alabama state capital, is dedicated to the victims of American white supremacy. And it demands a reckoning with one of the nation’s least recognized atrocities: the lynching of thousands of black people in a decades-long campaign of racist terror.

At the center is a grim cloister, a walkway with 800 weathered steel columns, all hanging from a roof. Etched on each column is the name of an American county and the people who were lynched there, most listed by name, many simply as “unknown.” The columns meet you first at eye level, like the headstones that lynching victims were rarely given. But as you walk, the floor steadily descends; by the end, the columns are all dangling above, leaving you in the position of the callous spectators in old photographs of public lynchings.

The magnitude of the killing is harrowing, all the more so when paired with the circumstances of individual lynchings, some described in brief summaries along the walk: Parks Banks, lynched in Mississippi in 1922 for carrying a photograph of a white woman; Caleb Gadly, hanged in Kentucky in 1894 for “walking behind the wife of his white employer”; Mary Turner, who after denouncing her husband’s lynching by a rampaging white mob, was hung upside down, burned and then sliced open so that her unborn child fell to the ground.

* Finally, after that, this seems like a fitting way to close things out today.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.