Let’s be clear about something. This idea that karma always catches up to people who are shady is for the most part a lie.
Karma is indeed “a bitch” when it comes calling, but it almost never does. Most people who are shady get away with it forever. That’s just how the world works. The old adage “no good deed goes unpunished” is an implicit refutation of the notion that karma is the great equalizer when it comes to rewarding the virtuous and punishing iniquity.
In most cases, it’s not karma that brings about the downfall of the shady. Rather, it’s hubris or some derivation thereof. Either that, or by some misstep, those who are shady run afoul of the “wrong” person and in the process meet their Waterloo.
Take Donald Trump, for instance. The President’s downfall has nothing to do with karma and everything to do with pride and arrogance. Virtually everyone who has dealt with Trump in his business career will tell you that he’s always been shady. As we’ve been keen on pointing out at every possible opportunity, the myth of Trump the “tremendous” businessman is just that: a myth.
As you’re no doubt aware, there’s a very strong case to be made that Trump isn’t a good businessman at all. Between all the bankruptcies, lawsuits and first-hand accounts detailing a history of abject buffoonery, it’s pretty easy to come to the conclusion that Trump couldn’t negotiate his way out of a wet paper bag, let alone lay claim to some imaginary crown bestowed upon the world’s best dealmaker. Recall this hilarious assessment from Elizabeth Warren posted earlier this year:
Let’s be honest – Donald Trump is a loser. Count all his failed businesses. See how he kept his father’s empire afloat by cheating people with scams like Trump University and by using strategic corporate bankruptcy (excuse me, bankruptcies) to skip out on debt. Listen to the experts who’ve concluded he’s so bad at business that he might have more money today if he’d put his entire inheritance into an index fund and just left it alone.
That last bolded bit is particularly amusing as it suggests that in fact, Trump could have lived the very same jet-setting life of luxury and debauchery completely free from the stress and lawyer fees had he just entrusted his money to Jack Bogle. In other words: every buy and hold investor on the planet is a smarter “businessman” than Donald Trump.
Here’s another fun factoid: Trump and his businesses have been sued so many times that there is literally one lawsuit for every episode of every show ever produced about lawyers.
While Trump’s shadiness in the real estate world is legendary, there are less spectacular but far funnier examples. There is, for instance, the time he single-handedly destroyed an entire pro football league and then, when a documentary was made about the boondoggle, he signed a letter to the filmmaker “P.S.: You are a loser.” Then there’s Trump University, which was forced to pay out $25 million earlier this year for defrauding some 6,000 students. He’s even tried to sell mail-order steaks and as of September, at least one national park was peddling his branded wine.
All of that is so shady as to be ridiculous and indeed, part of the reason Trump has been able to get away with everything he’s gotten away with over the course of his 7+ decades on Earth is that he became such a cartoon character that no one took him seriously.
And then… and then.
And then he pushed the envelope too far. He decided to run for President. That would have been fine. I mean, not really because Trump isn’t the type of person who should hold the highest office in the land, but if he had run an “honest” campaign devoid of divisive politics, hate, race-baiting, and outright lies, and still won, well then we’d all just have to swallow it.
But he didn’t. Instead, he ran on a platform that mixed hate, bigotry, and bombast with falsehoods and false hope. When that wasn’t enough, he allegedly turned to a hostile foreign government which played on the fears Trump and Bannon stoked by helping to propagate divisive messages and spread misinformation on social media. In the final insult, that hostile foreign power hacked the election itself and in the words of former-deputy national security adviser KT McFarland, “threw the U.S.A. election to [Trump].”
(From an e-mail obtained by the New York Times)
That was a bridge too far. Trump could have lived out his life in splendor, residing in golden monuments he constructed to himself, surrounded by sycophants, friends, and a family whose opulent lifestyle was guaranteed to continue for generations. But that wasn’t enough. So he pushed the envelope. Pride and arrogance told him he had to be President. And then, like so many business deals, he cheated to win – or at least that’s the accusation.
Now, every shady thing Trump has ever done that can be plausibly linked to Russia is being mercilessly scrutinized.
From the very beginning of this probe, we (and countless others) have contended that Trump’s business dealings may well end up being his downfall. On Tuesday, we got the latest evidence to support that contention when Handelsblatt reported that Robert Mueller has subpoenaed Deutsche Bank for documents detailing its relationship with Trump and the Trump family. To wit:
Deutsche Bank has been served. US investigators are demanding that it provide information on dealings linked to the Trumps, sources familiar with the matter told Handelsblatt.
Donald Trump and his family have long-standing ties to Germany’s largest bank. The former real-estate baron has done billions of dollars’ worth of business with Deutsche Bank over the past two decades, and First Lady Melania, daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner are also clients.
According to media reports, Mr. Trump owed Deutsche Bank as much as $340 million (€286.5 million) at one point, though considerable restructuring appears to have brought down that amount. The president’s financial disclosure of June 16 reported $130 million in debt, a figure the bank has not publicly confirmed.
Earlier this year, Democrats led by Representative Maxine Waters of California, were rebuked by the bank which insisted that absent something formal, sharing information about the Trumps would be illegal.
“This bank has lent hundreds of millions of dollars to Donald Trump and his family members, and reportedly conducted an internal review of whether their accounts had any ties to Russia,” Waters said in a statement over the summer, expressing dismay at the bank’s perceived recalcitrance. “Efforts by Trump, his family members and associates, and Deutsche Bank to avoid scrutiny only intensify our resolve to follow the Trump money trail,” she added.
Well in light of the subpoena (issued “several weeks ago” apparently), Deutsche had the following to say in an e-mailed response to Bloomberg:
Deutsche Bank always cooperates with investigating authorities in all countries.
Citing an executive at the bank who requested anonymity, Bloomberg goes on to write that “Deutsche Bank management is ready to share information about the lender’s dealings with Trump and is hopeful that doing so will help end the series of inquiries from Democrats.”
“Deutsche Bank executives and lawyers had been expecting a demand for information from Mr. Mueller’s team as the special counsel investigation progressed,” people close to the bank told the Wall Street Journal.
Now recall the following exchange from Trump’s interview with the New York Times in July:
SCHMIDT: Last thing, if Mueller was looking at your finances and your family finances, unrelated to Russia — is that a red line?
HABERMAN: Would that be a breach of what his actual charge is?
TRUMP: I would say yeah. I would say yes. By the way, I would say, I don’t — I don’t — I mean, it’s possible there’s a condo or something, so, you know, I sell a lot of condo units, and somebody from Russia buys a condo, who knows? I don’t make money from Russia. In fact, I put out a letter saying that I don’t make — from one of the most highly respected law firms, accounting firms. I don’t have buildings in Russia. They said I own buildings in Russia. I don’t. They said I made money from Russia. I don’t. It’s not my thing. I don’t, I don’t do that. Over the years, I’ve looked at maybe doing a deal in Russia, but I never did one. Other than I held the Miss Universe pageant there eight, nine years [crosstalk].
Much has been made of that apparent “red line” for Trump on the Mueller probe. But think about all that’s happened since then. Trump cannot fire Mueller or otherwise move against him now – at least not without triggering a constitutional crisis. The indictments of Manafort and Gates and the guilty pleas from George Papadopoulos and Michael Flynn have for all intents and purposes made it impossible for the President to oust the Special Counsel. Irrespective of what you think about Mueller, the optics associated with firing him after multiple indictments and plea deals would be terrible.
You’re also reminded that news of the Deutsche Bank subpoena comes as Trump has stepped up his verbal assaults on the FBI. Over the weekend, he said this:
After years of Comey, with the phony and dishonest Clinton investigation (and more), running the FBI, its reputation is in Tatters – worst in History! But fear not, we will bring it back to greatness.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 3, 2017
So what does Trump do now? Mueller has definitively crossed the red line Trump drew in July. The President could of course simply say that Mueller is within his mandate to look into the transactions but that would be a tacit admission that there’s a reason to look at them.
Needless to say, it’s probably a stretch to suggest that Mueller won’t find something in Trump’s accounts that’s shady. Which gets us back to what we said here at the outset. When hubris prompts someone who has spent a lifetime engaging in questionable deals to push the envelope a bit too far thus offending the “gods”, all of those past misdeeds which would have remained shrouded in secrecy forever will be dug up and parsed.
Pride, Mr. President, goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall.