In the 2016 presidential campaign, when accused of failing to pay his income taxes, Trump responded “that makes me smart”. His comment conveyed a message to millions of Americans: that paying taxes in full is not an obligation of citizenship.
Trump boasted about giving money to politicians so they would do whatever he wanted. “When they call, I give. And you know what, when I need something from them two years later, three years later, I call them. They are there for me.” In other words, it’s perfectly OK for business leaders to pay off politicians, regardless of the effect on our democracy.
Trump sent another message by refusing to reveal his tax returns during the campaign or even when he took office, or to put his businesses into a blind trust to avoid conflicts of interest, and by his overt willingness to make money off his presidency by having foreign diplomats stay at his Washington hotel, and promoting his various golf clubs.
These were not just ethical lapses. They directly undermined the common good by reducing the public’s trust in the office of the president.