January 2, 2017

Donald Trump doesn't have a clue about what being President means. Or why selling tickets to a party with him might be "pay to play."

After all, that only applies to "Crooked Hillary," right? Politico:

A person who travels in Palm Beach society circles said that tickets to the party were being sold for $525 each for members and $575 each for guests. Trump’s transition team declined to comment on the ticket prices.

Incoming White House Director of Strategic Communications Hope Hicks rejected criticisms that Mar-a-Lago was selling access to the president-elect.

“The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict,” she said. “This is an annual celebratory event at the private club, like others that have continued to occur since the election. Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict.”

Because Hope Hicks says so, that's why!

Yesterday former Ambassador to the Czech Republic and former Special Counsel and Assistant to President Obama on Ethics and Government Reform, Norman Eisen spoke to MSNBC's Frances Rivera about conflicts of interest and Donald Trump.

He and his Bush Administration counterpart, Richard W. Painter, wrote an op-ed in this weekend's New York Times entitled "Can Donald Trump hire Ivanka Trump?" in which they suggest that Trump should respect "the dignity of the Oval Office." Yeah.

-- Transcript --

FRANCES RIVERA, MSNBC: I want to talk about what is at issue. Because this was a ticketed event, there may have been the appearance that access to the President-elect could be bought. Are these concerns all about optics or could there be real political consequences here?

NORMAN EISEN, FORMER ETHICS ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Thanks for having me. Happy New Year. This is not just an optical concern. This is a genuine conflict problem because of the pattern. Selling of tickets to the event with the President-elect last night fits into a long series of conflicts that Mr. Trump has confronted. It starts with his business conflicts, which he has so far refused to address, postponing over and over again the announcement of how he is going to deal with those. You have his kids showing up to meetings with foreign leaders and heads of major American corporations when they're both operating his businesses and a part of managing his transition. And now you have these persistent -- it wasn't just last night. You have had Ivanka's time being auctioned off. The family had to take that down. You had an inaugural event where access to the President was being sold in a draft invitation for a million dollars. The family had to take that down. Now these big ticket opportunities to mingle with the President last night. It's a troubling pattern.

RIVERA: We are hearing from the incoming administration in Hope Hicks who is saying this. We haven't seen a change about his business dealings with this. Do you think we will see a change at all?

EISEN: Well, the President-elect needs to decide whether he is going to be President of the United States, or he is going to continue with his businesses. He can't do both. He needs to make a choice. Last night's event is a perfect example of the way that people can pay for access. Access leads to influence. Influence leads to scandal. This is not an isolated event in American history. We have seen this happen before. It's very troubling. I disagree with Hope Hicks strongly.

RIVERA: Mr. Ambassador, you wrote in The New York Times, the potential approaches he could take to avoid nepotism conflicts. If he does enlist family members for roles in the administration, what are the options especially when it comes to Ivanka Trump?

EISEN: Well, there's a strong anti-nepotism law on the books that expressly mentions the President and his daughter. So there's a law that prohibits hiring of family members in the White House. It's a bipartisan consensus. Myself and my Republican counterparts said you can't bring family members into the White House. The right thing for the President-elect to do, same party controls the White House and both houses of Congress, go to Congress, get an exemption from the law. The piece that I wrote this week in The New York Times was a bipartisan piece with my Republican counterpart from the Bush administration. If the President-elect chooses not to do that, at a minimum what he ought to do is subject Ivanka to the full scope of laws, including financial conflict, ethics laws, financial disclosure -- many of the things that he himself is not doing -- Ivanka to the full panoply that is subjected to every other person. And so if the President himself sets a tone, and we will get an announcement as soon as this week what he'll do, -- and no half measures are allowed, Frances. And he needs to sell his stuff through an independent trustee, and the blind trust, say, "I'm going to focus on the country" and certainly the same for the family members such as Ivanka and her husband Jared.

-- end of transcript --

The problem is, Trump sees the Presidency as just one more thing that adds to his celebrity. And like the Kardashians, Trump sees selling his presence at parties to be one of the perks of being famous. I

It's now a Celebrity Apprentice White House. It's not ethical, it's not legal, and it can't last.

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