It’s time to take stock of Congress. Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler’s new financial disclosures indicate that in recent months she hastily divested herself of even more stocks than was previously apparent. A riveting new report from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has the goods: it indicates that even as Loeffler — reputed to be worth about $500 million together with her husband Jeff Sprecher who, incidentally, is the chairman of the New York Stock Exchange — was issuing panegyrics to Trump for his visionary leadership, she was dumping millions, including $18.7 of Intercontinental Exchange stock and investments in T.J. Maxx and Lululemon, in late February and early March. She also invested in a company producing coronavirus protective wear. Nice work if you can get it, Kelly.
Stocks, though, aren’t the only arena where potential fiscal hanky-panky is taking place. The locus of corruption in the Trump era is, of course, the executive branch itself. All along Trump has seemed intent on verifying Balzac’s observation that ‘behind every great fortune there is a crime’. So it should probably come as no surprise that the Trump administration is seeking to repulse Senate Democrats on exercising oversight of the $500 billion bailout fund that Congress approved last week. No sooner had Trump signed the $2 trillion rescue package than he issued a nifty signing statement declaring that the numerous oversight that Democrats had insisted upon were so much folderol. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and several other senators sent Trump a letter pointing out that Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin ‘personally agreed’ to create a Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery. Trump doesn’t appear to be sold.
Small wonder. It seems that Trump may be in need of the very bailout that the provisions in the financial aid bill were supposed to stymie. The sale of Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, for example, has come to a halt. Seven of the Trump Organization’s most profitable properties have been shuttered. Perhaps Trump will set a new presidential first by going bankrupt while in office. It would be a spectacular auto-de-fe, vastly eclipsing his earlier bankruptcies as an entire country goes down with him.
But surely, Trump’s pursuivants cry, his poll numbers show that he’s on a roll. Not so fast. A new Politico/Morning Consult poll indicates that Trump’s serial antics are already wearing thin: ‘The survey, conducted immediately before President Donald Trump announced a 30-day extension of his physical and social distancing guidelines “to slow the spread” of COVID-19, shows 47 percent of voters feel the administration isn’t doing enough in response to the outbreak, greater than the 40 percent who feel the administration is doing the right amount.’ Trump may be trying to rewrite history about his original insouciance toward COVID-19, but it isn’t persuading anyone apart from the already converted. The blunt fact is that the more the coronavirus spreads, the worse his numbers will become.
Joe Biden, who has been largely quiescent, is doing the right thing by letting Trump write his own political epitaph. Biden can issue periodic criticisms of Trump’s fecklessness, but his best moves are to stay away from the crisis and focus on generating political interest in his own campaign. Dangling Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer as a potential vice president is a shrewd move. But Biden is right to keep most of his powder dry. For now, he can’t win the presidency as much as Trump can lose it. And day by day, as the human and economic toll mounts, as the crisis turns into a calamity, Trump is doing just that.