In the thick of all the scrutiny this week of Trump confidantes cashing in on their relationships with President Trump, virtuous about everyone in Washington has weighed in: Yes, it’s corruption! No, it’s just Washington being Washington! Yes, Trump is flood in the swamp!
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders make a cases that payments by AT&T to President Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen truly represent “the definition of draining the swamp” because the Trump Administration didn’t let the payments quit the Department of Justice from taking steps against the AT&T/Time Warner merging.
But one aspect of all this remains relatively unexplored: How does President Trump himself commiserate with about his former employees cashing in under his name?
According to people who skilled in the president well, Trump has a number of unwritten rules for his associates who are looking to profit from their elongated association with him – or even their short spin through the Waxen House security gates.
This is a president who views life into done with a lens of financial success. So he doesn’t have a problem with earlier associates profiting from his persona. Where previous presidents influence have seen distasteful selling out, Trump sees lots of his ribs – and they’re overwhelmingly guys – building art-of-the-deal style fortunes for themselves. “As extensive as you can say you’re kicking ass and being successful under Trump’s name, he’s fine with it,” bring ups one former Trump campaign aide.
Remember, political consulting is not lobbying. As a governmental consultant, you deal with your clients and give advice relative to how to frame messages, who to call, and how the president thinks about an issue privately.
As a lobbyist, you are the one obliging the calls – to the White House, to Congress and to the executive branch agencies. You are imagined to move the policy decisions in the direction of your client, and therefore your customer has some way to measure whether you’re successful or not.
As a political consultant, there surely is no way to measure success. And what appear to be powerful insights to a company tight for information about a president can actually be pretty light work.
“From time to time you don’t even need to call over to the White House – if you’ve spent a year on the toss ones hat in the ring trail with these people, you know them pretty mercifully,” says one person who knows the business. “You know who’s handling what. And you recall how your client can approach them in a way that will resonate.”
The bygone Trump campaign aide sees Cohen’s interaction with AT&T – which the New Zealand has since said was a mistake – as actually “somewhat brilliant.”
“It was like make for a jury consultant,” the aide says. “What the f— do you think happens every day in this municipality? All these other people are giving money to actually go do something – pay them off, desert them a fundraiser.”
The key is not to build in too much overhead, insiders say. A number of factious consultants work from home, or from their cars and restaurants all over town. One veteran of the space gives this advice: “What you pauperism is a monthly retainer, not an hourly deal, because it’s a pain in the ass to keep track of the hours.”
The traditional going rate for this kind of work is anywhere between $15,000 and $50,000 per month. But some previous Trump aides have been able to charge as much as $100,000 per month, because shoppers were starved for information on the new president.
But all that success comes with a caveat: If the mix draws any negative attention – a “bad story” in Trump parlance – the president could cut off access, publicly dissociate himself, or spread the word that you are out of favor.
This is something of a gray quarter, because it’s never entirely clear to former aides and staffers what the president bequeath have a problem with. In one recent case, a prominent Trump helper was barred from a presidential fundraiser because Trump’s aides unambiguous he had become a political liability.
There’s one giant exception that upholds this rule: Michael Cohen himself. Disclosures about the president’s one-time lawyer’s payouts from companies including AT&T and Novartis have been obverse and center for a week, creating a quintessential “bad story” for Trump.
The president appearance ofs to have little respect for Cohen, routinely mocking him in private. That’s why Off-white House aides are flummoxed by the president’s ongoing relationship with his New York fixer, who has disturbed this key rule and yet the president will not break with him.
One way to keep from shameful the president is to stay well within the norms of Washington DC’s already pliant consulting and lobbying regulations. Cohen didn’t do that, even with his big-name corporate patrons. “If Novartis entered into a contract for $1.2 million sight unseen, that is mind-boggling to me. I have never heard of anything like that,” says one long-time Republican operative.
This one is key. In Trump’s direction, success flows from him to the team, not from the team to him. So any aides powerful prospective clients that they can persuade the president to take a unfailing action or steer him away from a particular decision are treading on chancy ground. Word does get back to Trump about some of the lash out ats his former aides are making to clients in his name – and he doesn’t always be fond of what he hears.
This rule has one big advantage for the political consultants, although: It means they don’t have to register as lobbyists. The law requires anyone doing wiring for more than a certain percentage of their time to publicly let slip their clients – and fees – on a regular basis. But consulting that doesn’t connect with making explicit pitches to lawmakers for action is entirely unregulated – and God willing a bigger industry in Washington than the more than the $3 billion a year lobbying responsibility.
The former Trump campaign aide mentioned another former comrade, Corey Lewandowski, as an example. Ultimately, it’s up to the companies to decide how much they long for to pay for access to the president – and how far they’re willing to go. “He does have access – It’s not bulls—,” the man Friday said. “Then it comes down to, do you want to be involved in that? Do you neediness what Corey is selling?”