Boston Accent Talks To Jennifer Taub, Founder of #DivestDonald
By Charles Bane, Jr.
Jennifer Taub is a Professor at Vermont Law School where she teaches courses in contracts, corporations, securities regulation, and white-collar crime. She earned a J.D. cum laude from Harvard Law School, and a B.A. cum laude from Yale College. Prior to joining academia, she was an associate general counsel at Fidelity Investments. Professor Taub has written extensively about the 2008 financial crisis and on the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. This includes the book, Other People's Houses, published in 2014 by Yale University Press.
Boston Accent Lit: Is it your opinion that President Trump has consciously decided to pursue personal gain through his administration, in knowing violation of the Constitution?
Jennifer Taub: None of us are mind readers. However, we can draw inferences from a person's words and conduct. Based on his words and conduct from the campaign through the present, a reasonable conclusion is that he intends to pursue personal gain without regard for Constitutional requirements and ethical norms.
BA: What kind of effect does this have on current and future office holding, if unchecked?
Taub: Ultimately, I believe his greed will be his downfall. His tax returns will come out. Remember that Richard Nixon said "I am not a crook" concerning his tax returns. Then the IRS investigated, and he was forced to pay $465,000 in back taxes in April 1974. A few months later, after the Watergate scandal broke, he resigned.
BA: You've written a highly-praised account of the 2008 financial crisis, Other People's Houses. Are you alarmed by Trump's choice of Treasury Secretary?
Taub: The appointment of Stephen Mnuchin for Treasury Secretary is a betrayal to his voting base. Mnuchin is known as a "foreclosure king." He personally earned about $300 million after purchasing and then flipping IndyMac, renamed as One West. Remember IndyMac was a subprime mortgage lender that failed in early 2008 and was bailed out by the FDIC. This cost the FDIC deposit insurance fund more than $9 billion. During his period of ownership, the bank reportedly foreclosed on more than 36,000 homeowners and allegedly violated the law in several instances.
BA: Will the other shoe drop from Trump on Wall Street Reform?
Taub: We are still waiting to see what the Republican-majority Senate plans for the Dodd-Frank Act. Remember that 60 votes are generally still needed for legislative changes. So, if the Senate Democrats stand firm, the damage down to financial reform can be limited.
BA: Could you speak a little about the "Divest Trump" movement which you maintain with "joyful purpose."
Taub: I was inspired to launch the #divestdonald hashtag and begin the movement in November after reading the work of a bipartisan group of legal ethicists and Constitutional scholars including Kathleen Clark, Norm Eisen, Richard Painter, Stephen Schooner, Zephyr Teachout, and Laurence Tribe.
This phrase, #divestdonald, is designed to draw public attention to how this President was poised during the interregnum to violate, and now after being sworn in, is violating the Constitution. In particular, the foreign Emoluments Clause, found in Article I, Section 9, Clause 8 of the Constitution forbids the President from taking any payment from a foreign government or official unless Congress first approves. This would include payments for hotel rooms and licensing fees. It would also include any of the joint ventures Trump’s operations have with foreign governments.
This is a case of both monumental corruption and historical significance. When a President takes the oath of office, he solemnly swears to “faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and . . . to the best of [his] ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Yet, Trump is defying the Constitution.
The reason that I maintain a joyful purpose is because of the incredibly beautiful activism we are seeing across the country. From the Women's March, which was apparently the largest protest in American history, to the protests against the unconstitutional Muslim ban. I am inspired. Also, to be clear, the hashtag #divestdonald means more than just him selling his assets and placing them in a blind trust. It signifies that We the People need to divest of him as President and elect someone better. So, when we divest, what will we get? We need to shape that now. I believe this vision has six parts:
1. Shared prosperity and a living wage
2. Equal treatment, dignity, and justice for all
3. Affordable, comprehensive healthcare through single-payer
4. Debt-free, affordable higher-education
5. Banking that is not too big to fail
6. A sustainable, healthy planet
For more updates on #divestdonald, follow Taub on Twitter @jentaub.
Charles Bane, Jr. is the Nonfiction Editor of Boston Accent Lit. He is an American author of three collections of poetry, including the recent The Ends Of The Earth: Collected Poems (Transcendent Zero Press, 2015). He has written The Ascent Of Feminist Poetry (TZP, 2015 ), I Meet Geronimo And Other Stories, (Avignon Press, 2015), and Three Seasons: Writing Donald Hall (Collection of the Houghton Library, Harvard University). He created and contributes to The Meaning Of Poetry series for The Gutenberg Project.