Thomas “Tom” Vilsack, U.S. Agriculture Secretary (Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg)

Trump Is Bernie Madoff of Politics, Clinton VP Prospect Says

(Bloomberg) -- Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump “is sort of to politics what Bernie Madoff was to investment,” according to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, one of Hillary Clinton’s potential running mates.

“He is selling something that people don’t fully understand and appreciate what it actually means,” Vilsack said in an interview with NBC News, likening the New York real estate developer to the former stockbroker now serving a 150-year prison sentence.

Vilsack, 65, a former two-term governor of Iowa, has been a subject of news reports as a Democratic vice-presidential nominee for Clinton. He staged a short-lived presidential bid in the 2008 race before endorsing Clinton in her primary fight against then-Senator Barack Obama.

His jab at Trump invoked the mastermind behind one of the most-notorious Ponzi schemes ever. Now 78, Madoff pleaded guilty to embezzling billions of dollars from victims including retirees, charities and celebrities through his New York securities firm, Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities, after the fraud was uncovered in 2008.

Interviewed on Saturday in Mount Pleasant, Iowa, Vilsack said he would feel unsafe if Trump were to become president.

Clinton’s Deliberations

“I don’t trust someone who says to me we’re going to be a safer nation by bringing torture back,” Vilsack said, according to a transcript provided by NBC. “I certainly don’t think it’s going to make us a safer nation by suggesting that more countries need nuclear weapons. So those kinds of statements, those kinds of positions concern me for the safety of my family, and I think Americans will feel that way.”

Clinton, the former secretary of state, has been meeting with potential running mates in recent days at her home in Washington, and is likely to announce her decision within the next week, ahead of the Democratic National Convention that starts in Philadelphia on July 25.

Vilsack referred questions about vetting of his credentials to the Clinton campaign, but deflected a suggestion that he lacked foreign policy experience.

“Here’s what I know about foreign policy: I know that the United States of America is singularly the nation in the world that must be at the center of every problem we face globally,” Vilsack said. “And it must lead that effort, I understand that.”