President Trump's White House Reaching New Lows In Accountability And Transparency

from the 'man-of-the-people'-lol dept

It’s still very early in the Trump presidency, but so far, things aren’t looking good. Overt and implicit threats to freedom of speech continue to linger in the air. Recent comments suggest Trump will look to roll back the few measures taken over the last few years to curb asset forfeiture abuse. Wording in one of President Trump’s first presidential statements suggests the administration is going to value “law and order” over citizens’ rights. Then there’s the travel ban, which is being contested in federal courts.

We’re now seeing a rollback of the few transparency and accountability objectives the supposed-Most Transparent President Ever managed to accomplish over eight years of generally making things worse on both fronts.

This follows Trump’s secrecy during his presidential campaign, where he shrugged off over four decades of precedent by refusing to release his tax returns. He’s made it clear on multiple occasions — while standing in front of a memorial to dead CIA operatives and during his Black History Month speech — that he does not trust the media. But the actions taken during the first few weeks of his presidency suggest he also does not trust the general public.

The White House comment line is shut down. New signatures aren’t being counted on petitions posted on the White House’s website. Federal agencies are not allowed to respond to requests.


Transcripts, executive orders and news releases aren’t being posted online. Social media accounts, including Flickr, Pinterest and Tumblr, are no longer in use. Sending information to the Federal Register, the daily journal of the U.S. government, is delayed.

Steve Bannon, Trump’s top advisor, has a permanent seat at the National Security Council and seems to be eliminating any paper trail that may result from those meetings. Several agencies have been muzzled by the administration, which has informed them that everything — including press releases, blog posts, and social media interactions — will be “centrally-managed” and run through the White House’s “digital strategist.” The “We the People” petition page lives on, but no one in the administration has given any indication whether the White House will actually be responding to these petitions.

These actions appear to be a concerted effort to run a top-down White House — one that will determine the stance of every federal agency to ensure they stay on message. While some coherence is preferable to multiple opposing viewpoints on issues of public concern, the removal of the public from the equation is distressing.

As the McClatchy article points out, it’s not just social media accounts and federal register postings that have been affected. It’s also the few “direct” lines of communication the public has with the administration.

Cottmeyer, a self-described moderate Republican who has called the comment line for more than a decade, wants to speak to someone at the White House about Trump’s decision to pull out of the massive Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement, which she thinks will hurt her state’s economy.

But when she calls 202-456-1111 she gets a recording: “Thank you for calling the White House comments line. The comment line is currently closed. But your comment is important to the president.” It then refers her to – or Facebook, where the White House is accepting comments on its posts, but not messages.

While some of this may smooth out as the administration becomes more comfortable with the inner workings of the White House, these early steps don’t do much to indicate better, more transparent/accountable days are ahead. If anything, they give the impression that the White House isn’t going to act as the public’s servant, but rather a podium from which orders and directives are issued. Questions and comments are not only discouraged, but they appear to be considered completely irrelevant to the political process.

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Comments on “President Trump's White House Reaching New Lows In Accountability And Transparency”

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DannyB (profile) says:

Re: No tax returns, no presidency... You're fired Mr. Scrotum...

He could just be hiding his teeny tiny hands.

For someone supposedly so wealthy, Trump sure frowns a lot. If it’s not a frown it is a feigned smile. Or an evil grin. Never a genuine smile of happy emotion.

Maybe he is not so wealthy as he would like everyone to think.

PURE SPECULATION follows since we are in a vacuum of facts.

What if he is in debt to many investors? What if the latest of those investors (foreign?) didn’t understand how indebted he already was.

Imagine if his house of cards could come crashing down if it were to become known how in debt he is.

Maybe. Maybe not. Something is being hidden by not releasing the tax returns. The something might not be illegal, but could cause major trouble. Towers might not literally come crashing down. But loans might be called in.

Who knows what is hidden in those tax returns.

Or maybe the only thing to be revealed by the tax returns is that he really is extremely wealthy and it proves that wealth does not bring happiness. Or peace in the heart.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: No tax returns, no presidency... You're fired Mr. Scrotum...

at this point i couldnt care less about his tax returns. he is business tycoon with multiple failed businesses. there is going to be plenty there for everyone to freak out about and would only serve to distract from the larger issues that we have now. those being; this man is clearly not fit to run any branch of government at any level.

stop following the circus and the lights and lets discuss the real topics of a president attempting to use unconstitutional and unethical means to reach his ends.

David says:

Re: Re: Re:3 No tax returns, no presidency... You're fired Mr. Scrotum...

Well, your “penchant for voting republican” was clearly not getting much of a workout in the last election from pretty early on.

I mean, imagine the candidate lineup having to pass a job interview cross-examination by Lincoln and Eisenhower.

“Stop digging yourself into holes. It’s rude. We just dug ourselves out of one.”

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 No tax returns, no presidency... You're fired Mr. Scrotum...

Releasing his tax returns AND putting his businesses in a blind trust are important to ensure that no-one can use them to have illegal influence over him.

For example he no longer does business with many US banks. Instead he “has steadied and rebuilt his financial empire with a heavy reliance on capital from Russia” according to a lawsuit uncovered by the New York Times. This is someone who has business holdings all over the world.

That makes for some massive conflicts of interest. He can’t make policy without affecting his business holdings at home or abroad. Foreign leaders could find ways to use Trump’s holdings as leverage to influence federal policy. (Blocking permits, etc.) His business partnerships with Russian investors and his development projects in Russia would be in conflict with US-led sanctions against Russia over Crimea. This is someone who openly BRAGGED – while running for President yet – about using business dealings and money to bribe government officials.

Where conflicts are found, the standard practice is to place those business holdings in a “blind trust” – have a independent party, usually a respected accounting or law firm, run the business while the candidate is in office. Trump has refused to do that. Or to be more typically sleazy about it, he’s declared that the “blind trust” would be run by his kids.

How much money he has is fodder for comedians. Who he has deals with, who he owes money to and who can hold his holdings hostage, is a serious concern.

John85851 (profile) says:

Re: Re: No tax returns, no presidency... You're fired Mr. Scrotum...

I agree- when has Trump ever smiled? Even when he seems to be happy, his face has a smirk instead of a genuine smile.

As for his tax returns, I’ve read a few sites that speculate that he has a lot of business with Russian oligarchs. Maybe it’s all completely legal through his many companies or maybe they’re laundering mob-type money or who knows what.
But how would the average American feel if they knew Trump was cozying-up to the Russian mob?
And if he’s cozy with the Russian mob, how does this affect foreign policy, especially with Russia?

Also, how much business does he do in Egypt and Saudi Arabia? Why were these countries left off his immigration ban, especially when the 9/11 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia?
Could he have investments (or debts) with the Saudi family?

PlagueSD says:

10 steps to Fascism..

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy. –Check
2. Create secret prisons where torture takes place. –Check
3. Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens. –Check
4. Set up an internal surveillance system. –Check
5. Harass citizens’ groups. –Check
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release –Check
7. Target key individuals. –Check
8. Control the press. –Check
9. Treat all political dissidents as traitors. –In Progress
10. Suspend the rule of law. –In Progress

We’re almost there…

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: 10 steps to Fascism..

I was going to suggest the U.S. Holocaust Museum, but their list is a bit different:

  1. Powerful and continuing nationalism
  2. Disdain for human rights
  3. Identification of enemies as a unifying cause
  4. Rampant sexism
  5. Controlled mass media
  6. Obsession with national security
  7. Religion and government intertwined
  8. Corporate power protected
  9. Labor power suppressed
  10. Disdain for intellectual and the arts
  11. Obsession with crime and punishment
  12. Rampant cronyism and corruption

Only about 12 of those at most describe Trump/Bannon’s strategy.

383bigblock (profile) says:

Re: 10 steps to Fascism..

What an imagination. You should be writing Harry Potter type books.

1. Accuse new president of everything bad in the world which apparently he caused in just his first 30 days. — check
2. Forget about 8 years of crap from Obama and rewrite history to make him great — check
3. Drink the cool-aid on all of the liberal hysteria, sky is falling, “game over dude…We’re fucked” propaganda — check

Looks like we’re off to a good start here. Too bad Techdirt is now heading toward leading the liberal narrative. Too bad…. it was a good site. Too much focus on beating down a president in just the first 30 days.

Baron von Robber says:

Re: Re: 10 steps to Fascism..

Keep shoving your head in, you’re almost to your trachea.

1. What’s to accuse? He’s doing it. Appointing incompetents at best or those antithetical to the mission statements of their own depts.

2. Trumplethinskin IS making Obama look great, not an easy feat. That he is doing good at.

3. He’s enriching his family using government resources.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 10 steps to Fascism..

Too bad Techdirt is now heading toward leading the liberal narrative. Too bad…. it was a good site. Too much focus on beating down a president in just the first 30 days.

I’m sorry Techdirt is unable to prove you with a safespace for your political views. I didn’t realize you were so fragile. Tim should preface any article about the so-called president with a trigger warning for you.

383bigblock (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 10 steps to Fascism..

Just getting tired of the hypocritical liberal hate. Trump wasn’t my first pick, its just that Hilary was my absolute last. you guys are all so inclusive, fun loving, great folks right up until someone disagrees with your narrative.

Liberals love to hate and blame. It’s beyond tiring. It’s their new narrative and probably the best way to alienate the country against their party…..that strategy is affecting me. All Doom and Gloom.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 10 steps to Fascism..

Reality check: It’s equally conservatives like myself who dislike Trump. He’s not a conservative in any way, shape or form. Which is why so many prominent conservatives and conservative organizations and newspapers openly opposed Trump even AFTER he was nominated.

Just to be clear: He’s "alt-right." His strategist Steve Bannon runs Breitbart News, referring to it as "the platform for the alt-right." Trump with his birther claims and xenophobic attitude fits the mold. The alt-right by definition rejects mainstream conservatism.

Grow up and pay attention: Opposition to Trump’s behavior and policies aren’t "because lib’ruls."

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 10 steps to Fascism..

its not all hypocritical liberal hate. while i did not vote for him, i was firmly in the camp of, lets really find out what he actually is going to do first before we all go down the path of being an idiot calling for impeachment before he has even been sworn in.

i am currently horrified by his actions and he is, in my mind, the biggest threat to national security since bin laden got a bug up his ass.

i tend to vote republican and have my entire life…. so… liberal hate? no. genuine and legitimate concern.

harbingerofdoom (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 10 steps to Fascism..

no, your assuming that any negativity is all liberal hate. yes, i agree there is such a thing but thats NOT whats going on in all cases and to blindly assume/accept that it is is one of the major problems that led us down this sorry road we are on currently.

you also come off as suggesting that i see all issues as being the same thing, and clearly they are not, i also said nothing about russian sex and hacking so im not quite sure why you are including it in your reply to me unless its a separate thought that was just not clearly laid out as such?

The Wanderer (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 10 steps to Fascism..

Trump wasn’t my first pick, its just that Hilary was my absolute last.

That’s interesting, because Hillary Clinton wasn’t my first pick – it’s just that, out of those whose names were in the field (at any point over the entire campaign), Donald Trump was my absolute last.

After the election of Obama, I saw the writing on the wall about Hillary Clinton being the next Democratic nominee for the Presidency, and I decided that I would vote third-party rather than support her – despite the worse-than-useless nature of third-party votes in a first-past-the-post system – no matter how bad the opposing candidate was. (I had considered that for previous campaigns, and decided against it at the time.)

By the time the 2016 election came along, I was actually looking forward to voting for Hillary Clinton.

Part of that is because of shifts in her positions on things that matter to me, largely due to the influence of Bernie Sanders – but most of it is simply because it was already clear that Donald Trump is that bad.

Donald Trump almost singlehandedly converted me from disliking Hillary Clinton enough to throw away my Presidential-election vote by making a statement about the two-party system and the first-past-the-post voting model, to looking forward to voting for her just to help ensure that the abhorrent views he was espousing would not get into power.

He got into power anyway – largely, I suspect, because of the relentless decade-plus-long demonization campaign against Hillary Clinton – and now we’re starting to see the consequences. (And so is he; word is that morale in the White House is low and falling, from the top on down. I rather expected that he would be gravely disappointed by the actual job of the Presidency, if he found himself in it.)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: 10 steps to Fascism..

Drink the cool-aid on all of the liberal hysteria, sky is falling, "game over dude…We’re fucked" propaganda — check

As opposed to all the positive comments coming from the PeeOTUS’ twitter feed?

Too much focus on beating down a president in just the first 30 days.

We just expected more from such a bigly successfuly guy. After all, he could run his business empire AND the country (his words, not mine).

383bigblock (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: 10 steps to Fascism..

NO-ONE absolutely no-one is going to turn this country around in 30 days, hell 360 days. But doing the same old thing and relying on the same only shit (both sides of the political isle) isn’t working. At least this is different. Whether its good or bad is yet to be determined, I’m just not going to be so quick jump on the “we’re fucked” bandwagon yet, at least not until we actually are.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 10 steps to Fascism..

NO-ONE absolutely no-one is going to turn this country around in 30 days, hell 360 days.

Turned around into what, exactly?

Perhaps you can explain what is so dire in this country where there needs to be a turn around. It isn’t as if I’m the one running around like a chicken with the head missing.

Trump seems to think we have the highest murder rate in 47 years, a border that’s allowing millions of Mexican terrorists to flow in, and to top it off, a bigly problem with Nordstrom, Boeing, Carrier, and who knows who the fuck else.

If you want to complain about talk about the sky falling, start by complaining to the orange chucklefuck. He’s the biggest source of it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:3 10 steps to Fascism..

Oh, I’m sorry, did you miss the 11 million illegals that OBAMA himself admitted the US had?

Did you miss how murder rates ARE, in fact, increasing in major cities? Chicago had one of its bloodiest years last year.

Fix what? Oh, I dunno, how about 94 million Americans who aren’t working, an economy that’s barely functioning for most of the country, the various riots happening thanks to Antifa, the two terror attacks that happened during the election campaign, the fact that the MSM is completely untrustworthy right now?

Before you say anything to defend the MSM, ask yourself this, how much time did they dedicate to the wikileaks revelations vs how much time did they spend on “grab her by the p*ssy”?

Julian Assange said it himself in 2014.

“Congrats, gamers, you discovered your media is corrupt, dig deeper, corruption goes all the way to the top.”

BTW, for all you chucklefucks screaming about “Trump will lead the US to fascism”, go scream at Antifa and hope that they get squashed quickly, because their actions will give Trump all the ammo he needs to implement a Police State.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 10 steps to Fascism..

Did you miss how murder rates ARE, in fact, increasing in major cities?

Did you miss how overall crime rates are decreasing?

Julian Assange said it himself in 2014.

"Congrats, gamers, you discovered your media is corrupt, dig deeper, corruption goes all the way to the top."

Julian Assange and Gamergate? Yeah, you’re in awesome company there, dogg.

PS: Generally, when you are looking for something that goes all the way to the top of something, digging is not your best choice for getting there.

Cowardly Lion says:

Re: Re: Re:4 10 steps to Fascism..

“grab her by the p*ssy?”

All your other misinformed crqp notwithstanding, I’m just kind of curious why anyone would asterisk out “pussy” as though it’s some monsterous vulgarity yet think that “chucklefuck” is acceptable for polite, regular civil discourse.

I’m betting you take similar issue with words like “vagina”.

JMT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 10 steps to Fascism..

“NO-ONE absolutely no-one is going to turn this country around in 30 days, hell 360 days.”

And nobody except Trump apologists is claiming that’s what was expected. While the speed of his awfulness is surprising, it’s what he’s doing that is upsetting so many people, not when he’s doing it. He’s setting in motion changes that will likely have calamitous long-term effects if not challenged. Why the hell should people wait for the damage to become obvious and undeniable before acting?

“But doing the same old thing and relying on the same only shit (both sides of the political isle) isn’t working. At least this is different.”

A few times I’ve tried to fix something wrong with my car, but it didn’t work. So I looked for a better solution. I did not set my car on fire and then say “Well that’s different.” It’s stupid and simplistic to think that because something is different it must be better. If you wanted a better president than Clinton then you should’ve voted her in and had another go in four years.

“Whether its good or bad is yet to be determined, I’m just not going to be so quick jump on the “we’re fucked” bandwagon yet, at least not until we actually are.”

Then I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest you might not be very smart, or at least very ignorant of history. Trump is not some amazing innovator, all the terrible things he’s doing have been done by someone at some time around the world (some still are) and so it’s not hard to use rational thought to predict likely outcomes. It’s not rocket science.

Chuck says:

I'm sure this will all get better..

I’m sure this will all get better once the Trump white house actually manages to finish hiring its staff. It’s hard to respond to the public when over 90% of the people with the answers haven’t even been hired yet. Or even interviewed. Or even vaguely thought about, as far as we know.

I mean, EVERY OTHER WHITE HOUSE IN HISTORY did that BEFORE Inauguration Day, but hey, this is Trump, so did we really expect him to follow tradition? (Even the ones that make sense?)

On a more humorous note, it’s funny how Mr. Businessman can’t seem to hire people any faster than this, isn’t it? I know he’s famous for the OTHER HR function, but how has Trump ever made a dime when it takes him 3 months to hire a single mid-level manager?

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: I'm sure this will all get better..

You’re working from a false premise.

"Mr. Businessman" has had a lot of business failures across a lot of industries. When Trump’s casino group went bankrupt (for the 4th time) and the creditors took over, they kept Trump and his name involved. They recognized something important: While he’s a lousy businessman, he’s an excellent promoter.

It’s long been known the qualifications needed to run a successful election campaign are very different from the qualifications needed once elected. Trump is simply the ultimate expression of this.

Of course, most elected promoters then hire competent advisors and staff. Trump is behaving more like a dictator putting family and unthreatening incompetents in key positions.

BTW, Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, explains that Trump is ordering his staffers to tell obviously blatant lies to the press and the public – because it’s a sure fire way to for a dictator to have control over his inner circle, even if he can’t trust them.

By requiring subordinates to speak untruths, a leader can undercut their independent standing, including their standing with the public, with the media and with other members of the administration. That makes those individuals grow more dependent on the leader and less likely to mount independent rebellions against the structure of command. Promoting such chains of lies is a classic tactic when a leader distrusts his subordinates and expects to continue to distrust them in the future.

Another reason for promoting lying is what economists sometimes call loyalty filters. If you want to ascertain if someone is truly loyal to you, ask them to do something outrageous or stupid. If they balk, then you know right away they aren’t fully with you. That too is a sign of incipient mistrust within the ruling clique, and it is part of the same worldview that leads Trump to rely so heavily on family members.

Chuck says:

Re: Re: I'm sure this will all get better..

So my sarcasm wasn’t obvious, eh?

Yes, I’m aware he’s a horrible businessman. The fact that he can’t make a CASINO – which practically PRINT MONEY – turn a profit, kinda gave that away.

That and the fact that a large portion of his profits come from bankrupting the shell companies that are supposed to be paying his subcontractors before he pays them. Often, foreign labor subcontractors, at that.

Thanks for making it obvious for others, though 🙂

Chuck says:

Re: Re: I'm sure this will all get better..

It’s not like undersecretaries, deputy undersecretaries, or more than 97% of the staff that the White House is supposed to hire don’t go through any sort of Senate approval, right?

So what’s his excuse for the other 97% of people he hasn’t gotten around to hiring?


I mean his own press secretary doesn’t have an answer so…yeah.

Anonymous Coward says:

Trump is just simplifying the bureaucracy

All communications with everyone will now happen via Twitter. Got a petition? Twitter it. Got meeting minutes from the National Security council? Tweet the summary. Got something for the Federal Register? Well, Twitter now IS the Federal Register.

And if someone in government disagrees with what you tweet, your account will be shut down. No hard feelings!

Anonymous Coward says:

I think you miss the point. All this ‘listening to the public’ and ‘being accountable’ stuff is a waste if time for time wasting losers, especially as you now have Trump there to express the will of The People.

The thoughts of petty little individual persons is irrelevant before the monolithic will of The People, as expressed by The Leader.

Individual citizens are only required to be quiet and show up for the right rallies and express unquestioning support regularly through acceptable means. Unless you’re unpatriotic, or some kind of effeminate out of touch elite….

TeePee says:

Re: Re:

It looks to me like the only thing worse than voting in corrupt, dishonest politicians who say one thing to get your vote and do another when in power is to vote in corrupt, honest politicians who tell you exactly what they intend to do, and then set about trying to do it when in power.

Everyone thought Trump wouldn’t be as much of a douche when he got into power. Guess everyone was wrong

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: 'Now you complain?! Why didn't you say anything earlier?!'

A: He stated that he fully plans on burning down my house!

B: Yeah, but anyone can say anything, I’m sure he doesn’t mean it.

A: Now he’s buying gasoline, matches and kindling!

B: Maybe his car’s out of gas and he’s got a stove at home?

A: He’s at my house, placing the kindling around the base of the walls!

B: A pitstop I’m sure, he’s just resting before he goes back to his own house and placing it there to keep an eye on it.

A: And now he’s dousing the kindling with the gasoline!

B: The can’s got a leak and he’s got shaky hands.

A: He just lit a match and tossed it onto the gasoline, and how my house is on fire!

B: Poor eyesight combined with the shaky hands, I’ve no doubt he didn’t mean it.

A: He’s roasting marshmallows on the flames!

B: Hey, buying gasoline for your car is a hungry business.

A: An hour later, and now my house is nothing but cinders, and he’s sitting there patting his belly after several smores and roast hotdogs. Happy now?

B: Why are you complaining now, why didn’t you say anything before this if you were so worried?! You should have seen this coming and said something before it reached this point, as it stands it’s all your fault for staying silent and therefore implying your approval the entire time!

The moral of the story/tl;dr version: You don’t have to, and shouldn’t, wait until a house/country is a smoking pile of rubble before voicing concern about the steps taken in that direction.

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