Donald Trump hasn’t been sworn in yet, but he is already making decisions and issuing statements to world leaders that radically depart from American foreign policy, all to the benefit of his family’s corporate empire. Because of this, the next president of the United States is already vulnerable to undue influence by other nations, including through bribery and even blackmail.
Given the vast scope of the clashes between the Trumps’ extensive business dealings and the interests of America, the president-elect vowed during the campaign to eliminate potential conflicts by severing ties to his company—yet, with only weeks to go until he takes the oath of office, he hasn’t laid out a credible plan. Trump’s sole suggestion to date—a “blind trust” run by his children—would not eliminate the conflicts, given that the money generated would still go to his family. Moreover, such a trust would be anything but blind: If Trump Tower Moscow goes under construction, Trump will see it while in Russia and know that his kids are making millions of dollars from it. That is why foreign leaders hoping to curry favor will do everything they can to help Trump’s family erect more buildings, sell more jewelry and make money through any means possible. Even if the family steps away from its company while Trump is president, every nation on Earth will know that doing business with the Trump Organization will one day benefit the family. The only way to eliminate the conflicts—sell the company, divvy up the proceeds—has been rejected by Trump, whose transition team refused to respond to any questions from Newsweek for this article.
Some of the most egregious conflicts that have emerged involve countries in Asia and its subregions, particularly the Philippines. Global policy on the Philippines has been fraught with tension since the election in May of Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s president. Duterte, who boasted to voters during the campaign that he had shot a fellow law school student for teasing him, has championed the killing of suspected criminals and street children by vigilante death squads. In 2015, he said that if he became president, up to 100,000 people suspected of links to illegal drugs could be killed. Just months after his election, Duterte said he was eager to lead a genocide of up to 3 million drug addicts. “I'd be happy to slaughter them,” he said. “At least if Germany had Hitler, the Philippines would have [me].” And in September, an admitted hit man testified to a Senate committee in the Philippines that Duterte presided over a killing campaign when he was mayor of Davao City.
Despite universal condemnation of the ongoing slaughter of Filipinos, Trump signaled his approval of Duterte’s policies during a phone call on December 2. According to Duterte—an account that has gone uncontested by Trump—the president-elect endorsed his tactics as “the right way.” Duterte added: “[Trump] was wishing me success in my campaign against the drug problem.” (He also said Trump invited him to the White House, a courtesy not yet extended to Theresa May, the prime minister of Britain, America’s most important strategic ally.)As president, Duterte rapidly showed he was little concerned with the legal protections afforded to Filipinos suspected of crimes.
During his first three months in office, 850 Filipinos were killed by death squads, apparently on little more than the suspicion that they were drug users and dealers. Since then, the estimated death toll has climbed to 4,500. The carnage has been condemned throughout the Western world; the Parliament of the European Union and two United Nations human rights experts have urged Duterte to end the massacre. One of the experts even appeared to suggest that Duterte and his government could be held legally accountable for committing mass murder in violation of international law. “Claims to fight illicit drug trade do not absolve the government from its international legal obligations and do not shield state actors or others from responsibility for illegal killings,” said Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on summary executions. In response to the denunciations, Duterte lashed out at the United States, threatening to align his country more with China.
So we're already cozying up to strongmen like Putin, Duterte, and Assad. Hell, we *are* the new Axis of Evil these days, and the whole game is to make Trump and his family rich beyond their filthiest dreams of avarice.
Of course the rest of us will have to pick up the check. And it's going to have an awful lot of zeroes at the end when the bill comes due.