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Facing conflict-of-interest allegations, Trump tries brazenness

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump is greeted by his family after the third and final debate with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Reuters)
Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump is greeted by his family after the third and final debate with Democratic U.S. presidential nominee Hillary Clinton in Las Vegas, Nev., Oct. 19, 2016. 
About a week ago, it looked like Donald Trump's choice for Interior Secretary would be Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a member of the House Republican leadership team. Many were therefore surprised when the cabinet pick instead went to Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Mont.). What led to the shift in direction?As it turns out, according to multiple reports, Don Trump Jr. was directly involved in the process of choosing the next Interior Secretary, taking "a hands-on role," and he "hit it off" with Zinke when the two recently went hunting.Politico's report added, "Either [the president-elect's] boys -- Don and Eric -- are running the Trump Organization, or they're helping advise their father, the next president of the United States. Doing both is exactly what Republicans and Democrats alike are worried about. If he's running the company, why is he helping his father assemble his Cabinet?"That's a very good question, though by all appearances, the incoming president just doesn't seem to care.

President-elect Donald Trump pledged his aid in helping top technology executives continue to innovate and solicited advice from the tech titans during a meeting in Trump Tower on Wednesday. [...]Vice President-elect Mike Pence, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus, Trump children Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr., and Wilbur Ross, Trump's selection to head the Commerce Department, also attended the meeting.

Looking at photos from the gathering, it appears Trump's adult children sat at the head of the table during the meeting with tech executives.There was no reason for the president-elect's kids to be there, and every reason for them not to. They are, after all, poised to take over Trump's lucrative business enterprise, and we've all been assured Eric and Don Jr. will have no official role in his administration while managing the president-elect's private-sector empire.And yet, Team Trump keeps blurring the lines to the point at which they no longer exist.As Rachel has noted on the show, the political system isn't designed to deal with a leader who is shameless. Indeed, what I find most striking about Trump's behavior isn't the corruption; it's the brazenness. Faced with serious questions about conflicts of interest, the incoming Republican president is making no effort to hide his actions.According to Sean Spicer at the Republican National Committee, Trump's shamelessness effectively means the conflict-of-interest controversies don't exist.

Sean Spicer, a spokesman for the Republican National Committee who has been working closely with the Trump team on the transition, told CNN's Kate Bolduan that only "sneaky" dealings are a problem."You tell everyone, here's what's going on, here's the process, here are the people that are playing a role, that's being transparent," Spicer said. "Conflicts of interest arise when you're not -- when you're sneaky about it, when you're shady about it, when you're not transparent about it."

Ah, I see. Because Trump's misdeeds are visible, and the president-elect is trying to exploit his office for personal and family profit in plain sight, we're supposed to believe it's not alarming. American leaders are supposed to honor institutional norms and avoid appearances of impropriety, but to hear Sean Spicer tell it, the "transparency" of Trump's actions effectively serve as an antidote to wrongdoing.Put it in a time-capsule, folks; future generations won't believe it.