President Donald Trump made a lot of promises during his successful campaign to become President of the United States – two of which were to “drain the swamp” (clean up official corruption) and to crack down on illegal immigration.
Official Corruption Prosecutions Declining
Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) has been compiling data on both promises. As for official corruption, TRAC found that official corruption prosecutions declined during Trump’s first full month in office. That should not come as a surprise to most Trump observers. The specter of corruption has shadowed “the art of the deal” master and his business associates throughout most of his highly-publicized business career.
At the end of February for the Fiscal Year 2017, data from the Justice Department disclosed that there were 164 new official prosecutions initiated by the department during the first five months of FY 2017. During the final four months of the Obama administration, there was an average of 35 new official corruption cases filed. There were only 24 such cases filed during Trump’s first full month in office—a significant decrease.
Signals to Shift Priorities
This sharp decrease can probably be attributed to signals received by U.S. Attorneys across the country from the Trump administration hierarchy that official corruption prosecutions would no longer be a priority. This speculation is fueled by the fact that in early March U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asked for the resignations of 46 U.S. attorneys across the country.
Forty-seven U.S. Attorneys had already tendered their resignations either on or shortly after Trump took office. They saw the handwriting on the wall.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara refused Sessions’ call for his resignation. Bharara had previously been assured by Sessions and Trump himself that he would keep his position. Bharara had earned the reputation of pursuing high profile official corruption investigations. AG Sessions promptly fired Bharara when he refused to step aside. It should be noted that Bharara was handling an investigation of Trump’s appointed U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, at the time of his dismissal.
A number of senior Democrats quickly charged that Bharara was dismissed to keep him from investigating the president’s finances and a host of other possible investigations such as the president and his campaign surrogates’ ties to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential campaign.
While the mass removal of U.S. Attorneys is not unprecedented, the fact that during Trump’s first full month in office the number of official corruption cases took a nosedive signals that the swamp will not be drained, and, in fact, may well grow in size to the point that official corruption will become an integral component of the art of political deal-making.
Crack Down on Non-Residents
Public officials who corrupt their positions of trust do not generally view themselves as part of the nation’s crime or public safety problem—and many endorse President Trump’s proposed crackdown on otherwise law-abiding non-residents who are in this country unlawfully.
TRAC reports that it is too early to get a clear picture of what can be expected from Trump immigration policies. The Clearinghouse explains why:
“Court records reveal that so far, since Trump assumed office, a total of 11,040 cases have been initiated by DHS (Department of Homeland Security) seeking removal orders. This represents the number of DHS Notices to Appear (NTAs), or comparable forms, dated after January 20, 2017 that had been filed in court as of the end of February 2017. NTAs are the official notification to an individual that DHS is seeking to deport them.
“Because there is often a delay between the date of the NTA and the date it is filed and recorded by the Immigration Court, around half of the NTAs filed during the post-Trump period still reflect NTAs initiated under President Obama. This report focuses just on those NTAs that were dated after Trump assumed the presidency and have already been filed and recorded by the court. We refer to these as ‘post-Trump cases’.”
So, who are the Trump deportees?
USA Today reported March 22, 2017 that the face of the people the Trump administration is rounding up for deportation is “non-violent undocumented immigrants who would not have been deported under former president Barack Obama’s policy.” The newspaper pointed out that while Trump campaigned on the promise to deport “gang members, murderers, rapist, or ‘bad hombres,’” his Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) are hauling in any other undocumented immigrants “they catch along the way” as they seek out the “bad hombres.” As far as ICE is concerned, any undocumented immigrant is a bad hombre that must go.
The New York Times reported on February 25, 2017 that ICE agents feel “newly embolden, newly empowered” under the Trump administration to get on with the task of getting the undocumented out of the country. ICE agents have taken to stalking courthouses and trolling airports in search of anyone who may appear “undocumented.” Some 17 ICE agents in Texas, California, Arizona, Florida, Alabama, and Washington told the newspaper on the condition of anonymity that said they feel the president has taken the “shackles off” off them.
The message here, if any, is that it is okay to steal from the government and corrupt the public trust so long as you are lawfully in the country—documented, in other words—but don’t get caught honestly working for a living and paying your taxes if you entered this country unlawfully.