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A Dangerous and Filthy Place

Trump's descriptions of Baltimore were actually descriptions of the Kushner properties

White House adviser Jared Kushner and President Donald Trump together at the G20 Summit on December 2018. (Photo: President of Mexico/Flickr)

The Stealthy School of Criticism.

— Dante Gabriel Rossetti, Letter to the Athenaeum (1871)

It is a side of the trump we have never seen nor, indeed believed he had. It was remarkable not only for its subtlety but for the person at whom it was directed. It goes to show that wonders in this administration never cease.

I refer to the trump’s attacks on Baltimore. The language the trump used was vituperative and it threw everyone completely off the track, even Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings. It all started on July 27th and it was cleverly done through a series of tweets.

Tweets, as followers of such things know, are series of comments that are limited in length to 280 characters. They are admirably suited to the trump since his knowledge of virtually anything that comes to his attention can always be demonstrated in 280 characters and, frequently, even fewer than that.

The tweet is useful to the trump not only to announce his major policy initiatives. It is equally useful in enabling him to concisely, but without sacrificing crudity, attack the hundreds of people he dislikes. On the rare occasions when 280 characters, some of them in upper case for added emphasis, are not up to the task the trump has assigned them, he overcomes the hurdle presented by sending out multiple tweets thus enabling him to adequately vent his feelings. Occasionally he can use tweets to throw his pursuers off his scent and that is what he brilliantly did beginning on July 27, 2019.

On that day the trump emitted a series of tweets attacking Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings. Ostensibly the tweets were occasioned by Rep. Cummings having criticized the trump treatment of immigrants at the southern border. Pretending to respond to the criticism, the trump called Rep. Cummings a “total bully” although that particular insult was cut from whole cloth since the trump assigned no reason for referring to Rep. Cummings in that way. It may have been, however, part of the trump’s clever plan to keep critics from understanding the real purpose of that particular bout of tweeting.

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In pursuit of that goal, and to further mislead his critics, the trump then began attacking the city of Baltimore which is part of Rep. Cummings district. He said: “Cummings [sic] district is a disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess where no human being would want to live. If he spent more time in Baltimore, maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.” He said that the district represented by Rep. Cummings “is considered the worst in the USA.” In remarks before heading off on one of his many boondoggles, the trump, showing compassion for Baltimore residents, said “they were living in hell.”

What we have now been able to figure out is that the trump was not attacking Rep. Cummings or Baltimore because he wanted to attack Rep. Cummings or Baltimore. He was trying to send a message to someone who is not only a member of his family, but a very important member of his team, Jared Kushner. Jared, as followers of such things know, is not simply the trump’s senior advisor. He has been entrusted with the task of solving many of the most pressing problems confronting the trump except, of course, North Korea, which is within the trump’s sole purview because of the beautiful friendship he enjoys with its leader.

The trump was using Rep. Cummings as a foil in order to impart a message to his son-in-law, a message he was too embarrassed to impart in person. The trump knew that if he openly admonished Jared for what was reported following his tweets about Baltimore, it could have an adverse effect on their wonderful relationship. He knew that once the tweets were publicized, the fake news would immediately disclose what the trump was too embarrassed to comment on himself. And it worked.

As soon as the tweets were reported, the Washington Post, among other publications, disclosed that Kushner Companies in which Jared is a stockholder and until 2017, the president, own close to 9,000 rental units in 17 different complexes in Baltimore. The properties generate approximately $90 million in annual revenues.

As we now know, the trump tweets were not directed at Rep. Cummings but were instead a not so subtle hint to his son-in-law that he should clean up his Baltimore act. The trump’s descriptions of Baltimore were actually descriptions of the Kushner properties.

In the 2017 calendar year alone, the properties incurred more than 200 code violations. In a report by Politico and the New York Times, tenants reported mouse infestations, maggots, black mold, collapsing dry wall ceilings and general conditions in the Kushner properties that fit perfectly the trump tweets describing Baltimore as a “disgusting, rat and rodent infested mess. If he spent more time in Baltimore maybe he could help clean up this very dangerous & filthy place.” The “he” in the trump tweet was, of course, a reference not to Cummings but to Jared.

Shannon Darrow, a program manager at the tenant advocacy group Fair Housing Action Center of Maryland said of Kushner he “has been creating a race to the bottom in terms of poorly maintained properties.” Jared is, of course, very busy with affairs of state on behalf of the trump. However, perhaps he will get the message the father-in-law tried delicately to impart to the son-in-law. The tenants in Kushner owned properties will be eagerly waiting to see if the tweets had the desired effects.

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli

Christopher Brauchli is a columnist and lawyer known nationally for his work. He is a graduate of Harvard University and the University of Colorado School of Law where he served on the Board of Editors of the Rocky Mountain Law Review. He can be emailed at brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu. For political commentary see his web page at http://humanraceandothersports.com

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