News Journal: What happened to Trump’s “best and most serious people?”

“I’m going to surround myself only with the best and most serious people. We want top of the line professionals.”
That Trump campaign promise may well have been the single most important reason so many people voted for him. He was a successful businessman, his supporters argued, who would be able to identify the most qualified people and make them part of his administration.
I wrote a column some time ago about the unprecedented turnover of people in high-level jobs during the first few months of the Trump presidency. That has been reason enough to question Trump’s managerial abilities.
Then, of course, we learned why he wants to keep people in the White House even after they prove to be incompetent. When Chief of Staff John Kelly first proposed firing Omarosa Manigault Newman, Trump wanted to keep her on “because she only said great things about me.”
But last Tuesday, in courtrooms in Virginia and New York, the final nail was driven into the idea that President Trump was the kind of manager who could attract and hold the “best and most serious people.”
In the first courtroom, Paul Manafort, the Trump campaign manager who engineered his delegate-winning operation at the Republican National Convention, was convicted of eight criminal counts and faces up to 80 years in prison.
I’ve been involved in a few presidential campaigns. Without exception, every campaign staff member who interacted with the candidate had been the subject of serious professional vetting. This was also my experience in all my jobs over the years in the federal government and the private sector.
Not so in the Trump presidential campaign. There have been numerous credible reports that there was no serious vetting. It seems candidate Trump picked top aides based on his experience on “The Apprentice” TV show. That is, he based his selections on his personal whims and instincts.
Is it any wonder he has found himself surrounded by so many problem hires?
Manafort left the Trump Campaign because Trump got tired of being counseled to stop picking so many public fights, not because news reports had begun to surface of Manafort’s financial shenanigans. Not even his convictions on bank fraud and money-laundering counts have stopped the President from praising him.
“I feel very badly for Paul Manafort and his wonderful family. [The Department of Justice] took a 12 year-old tax case, among other things, applied tremendous pressure on him and, unlike Michael Cohen, he refused to ‘break’ — make up stories in order to get a ‘deal.” Such respect for a brave man!”
The President of the United States is openly saying that he admires a man who refuses to cooperate with the Department of Justice. Has any previous President ever done that? And is this President signaling to Manafort that if he continues to stonewall the prosecutors, Trump will pardon him?
Clearly, the President took a very different tack when his personal lawyer, someone who was close to him for many years, pled guilty to eight counts of tax evasion, bank fraud and campaign finance violations.
In case anybody missed his feelings about Michael Cohen in the Manafort tweet, Trump tweeted later in the day, “If anyone is looking for a good lawyer, I would strongly suggest that you don’t retain the services of Michael Cohen!”
Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny Davis said later on TV that Cohen “has knowledge on certain subjects that should be of interest to the special counsel and is more than happy to tell the special counsel all that he knows, not just about the obvious possibility of a conspiracy to collude and corrupt the American Democracy system in the 2016 election … but also knowledge about the computer crime of hacking and whether or not Mr. Trump knew ahead of time about that crime and even cheered it on.”
To put it bluntly, two more acknowledged criminals have just been added to the growing rouge’s gallery of “the best and most serious people” who have pled guilty or left office in disgrace.
In an earlier column I asked, “When will good Republicans stand up to Trump?” The silence is deafening.

Ted Kaufman is a former U.S. Senator from Delaware.