A nonprofit government watchdog group has accused Donald Trump of leading the “most unethical presidency” in modern times, and possibly in the nation’s history, in a report published Tuesday.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, castigated Trump in its report, titled, “The Most Unethical Presidency: Year One,” saying his utter dismissal of standard ethics practices has led to legal challenges and scandals that have tainted the office.
“The Trump administration is confronted by an extraordinary scale and scope of legal and ethics scandals,” the report said. “It is unrivaled in the modern era, and perhaps in the history of the nation, for a first-year administration."
The 36-page report was drafted by Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the organization and former Department of Justice corruption prosecutor; Norm Eisen, the former ethics czar for the Obama administration and CREW chairman; Richard Painter, the vice chairman at CREW and chief White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush; and the CREW staff.
The organization says it's brought 180 legal challenges against Trump and his administration, and has often cited financial conflicts of interest or invoked the “emoluments” clause. The Constitution bars a president from receiving payments—or emoluments—from foreign governments.
"For virtually every decision President Trump makes, from taxes to environmental regulations to foreign policy, the American people cannot be sure whether he made his decision in the public interest or to benefit his bottom line," the report noted.
Last month, a federal judge dismissed two lawsuits, one of which CREW had filed, claiming emoluments clause violations. Despite the ruling, the liberal watchdog group is resolute that Trump is financially profiting from his position as commander-in-chief.
"Meanwhile, President Trump has again and again used his office personally profit, most prominently by spending roughly a third of his days as president at his resorts, but also by constantly promoting his businesses,” the report said. “No president in the history of our nation has held businesses creating the kinds of conflicts, constitutional violations, and self-dealing we see with this one."
The authors also pointed to the FBI’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and the country’s possible collusion with the Trump campaign. Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s office has charged Trump’s former national security adviser Michael Flynn and another campaign adviser with lying to the FBI over their respective contacts with Russians. Two other campaign advisers, including campaign manager Paul Manafort, have also been indicted by Mueller’s office, though none of the 12 federal counts they are charged with are directly related to the campaign.
At the onset of the investigation, Trump told then-FBI Director James Comey, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy,” Comey later told the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2017.
“A disregard for ethics at the highest levels often leads to mushrooming scandal and that is just what happened here,” the report said. “President Trump’s conduct toward the investigation into Russian interference into the 2016 election has been increasingly troubling. Indeed, there is now significant evidence that President Trump may have obstructed justice.”
The group is calling on Congress to pass legislation that would protect Mueller’s investigation and make it more difficult for Trump to fire him, in addition to other legislative actions to tighten corruption and ethics laws. It is also asking the public to be vigilant in holding the administration accountable.
“After a full year of this administration, it is now abundantly clear that the executive branch under President Trump is characterized by contempt for ethics and conflicts of interest rules and for the rule of law,” the group wrote. “It is time for the American people to conclude that one year is enough and to demand an end to the culture of corruption that is gripping Washington.”