Jan. 11, 2017
Trump ‘Plan’ Fails on All Levels, Will Do Nothing to Solve Most Serious Conflict Problems
Statements of Public Citizen Experts
Note: Today, President-elect Donald Trump announced a “plan” on how he will address his conflicts of interest.
Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen:
President-elect Donald Trump has failed his ethics test. Now, America will suffer the consequences.
There is only one way to avoid the conflicts of interest that will engulf his presidency and America: He must sell the family business.
Unfortunately, President-elect Trump has today declined to take this simple step. The measures he plans to put in place will do nothing to solve the most serious conflict problems.
It does not matter if a trustee prevents conversations between the president and those running his business (including, implausibly, his sons), nor if profits from foreign operations are donated during the presidency.
That’s because Trump knows what he owns, and he knows how policy choices will affect his business. The corrupting conflicts are inescapable, irrespective of Trump’s good or bad intent, and irrespective of his contact with those running the business, as long as he owns the business.
These pervasive conflicts will affect matters from consumer protection to bankruptcy law, labor rights to tax policy, as well as foreign policy. Americans deserve a president who works for them, without regard to how policy will affect the president’s own bottom line.
Instead, we are on the verge of witnessing the first for-profit president.
Lisa Gilbert, director, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division:
Trump’s announcement today fails on all levels. Hiring a trustee doesn’t insulate him from knowing what he owns – this arrangement involves neither the needed divestment of his assets nor the creation of a truly blind trust to manage the proceeds. Further, his sons will remain involved with the trust and there is no such thing as a firewall at family dinners.
In addition, the idea of giving up only profits, not all revenue, from foreign business, and only from hotels, is not an acceptable answer to the emoluments clause problem. Due to his foreign entanglements, Trump may be in violation of the Constitution on day one and will enter office with numerous financial conflicts with foreign governments and foreign business interests that could prejudice him as he makes decisions that impact the United States and our security.
Finally, the idea of “limited new deals” is not a feasible one. As long as the Trump family business enterprises continue to accept business, any representation about not taking new deals is a smokescreen. Individuals and businesses who seek to curry favor with the new president and his family will direct their business to Trump, which likely will have disastrous and corrupting ramifications for policy choices.
Visit Public Citizen’s Trump conflicts resource page.