2) There remain disturbing unanswered questions about the relationship between the Trump campaign and Russian spy services. The new national security adviser, Michael Flynn, accepted payments from RT, the Russian state propaganda network. (He has refused to disclose the amount.) The legal hazards presented by clandestine contacts with hostile foreign governments are even more alarming than those connected to financial wrongdoing.
3) This administration lies a lot. Lying by public officials is usually unethical, but not always illegal. As White House senior counselor Kellyanne Conway said during the Trump transition: “Nobody on TV is ever under oath.” But there are times when administration officials do speak under oath. Lying then becomes perjury. Lying to Congress is always illegal, whether under oath or not. People who habitually lie, lie habitually. Those who work with them can face trouble, even possibly obstruction of charges if they enable such lying: President Clinton’s White House counsel Bernie Nussbaum had to resign under fire in 1994 after other government officials alleged that his legal advice in the Whitewater matter amounted to the organization of a coverup.
4) Sometimes new administrations find themselves obliged to execute laws they disagree with. Changing the law can be slow. Ignoring the law takes much less time—but also opens the door to trouble. Ronald Reagan’s first EPA chief, Ann Gorsuch, entered history in 1982 as the first agency head to be cited for contempt of Congress. Gorsuch believed that the Carter administration had imposed excessive regulatory burdens. So she simply disregarded them. Convinced, for example, that the inherited rules on lead standards in gasoline were too onerous, she assured one refiner that she would leave the rule unenforced until such time as it could be amended. Gorsuch not only ended in disgrace herself, but embroiled two of her subordinates in perjury investigations.
So what is a patriotic American who’s been asked to serve to do? A few suggestions.
A law-abiding person will want to stay as far as possible from the personal service of President Trump. As demonstrated by the sad example of Press Secretary Sean Spicer spouting glaring lies on his first day on the job, this president will demand that his aides do improper things—and the low standards of integrity in Trump's entourage create a culture of conformity to those demands.
A wise patriot might be wary of working directly for or near Flynn or anybody else tied to the Russian state, the entities it controls, or Russian business interests. The National Security Council staff has engorged itself to such an enormous size in recent years—now some 400 people—that there are many important roles to fill, safely firewalled away from Flynn.
At the other departments or agencies of government, here’s the test: Odds are that the department or agency head will sooner or later be called upon to some improper thing at some point during the Trump administration. Do you trust him or her to say “No”? If not, you may find that improper demand relayed to you—or, even more ominously, you may find yourself involved in actions whose impropriety you only discover too late.