Since the election — and regrettably not before — a relentless stream of stories have been published about President-elect Donald Trump's vast and varied conflicts of interest arising from his business holdings. But even the innocuous phrase "conflicts of interests" itself masks the real problem, which is that it is the interests of We the People that are being compromised. The Democrats are pushing back.
In the Washington Post, Drew Harwell details the problems with Donald Trump’s latest promise “that his businesses will do ‘no new deals’ during his time in the White House,” starting with the fact that it is utterly nonsensical. Trump’s complex international business holdings will naturally strike “new deals” moving forward.
“Every day there are going to be new negotiations, new terms, new transactions within the existing businesses,” said Norm Eisen, a chief White House ethics lawyer for President Obama.
“There’s going to be a lot of major dealmaking inside existing projects. Even his [new Trump International Hotel in Washington] requires constant renegotiation between him and the United States,” Eisen added. “The notion of no new deals makes no sense whatsoever.”
Further, notes Harwell, Trump’s absurd “no new deals” pledge does little to assuage concerns about “the hundreds of millions of dollars in debt Trump and his companies owe to lenders, including big banks in China and Germany. Those debts, ethics advisers said, could influence his political commitments or fuel questions about his policies.”
Such major ethical concerns are often — and correctly — called Trump’s “conflicts of interests,” but his business holdings stand to wreak such extensive havoc that the common turn of phrase hardly captures the terrifying scope.
Kurt Eichenwald’s latest piece for Newsweek, detailing more of the conflicts of interest which Eichenwald has been doggedly documenting, is bluntly headlined: “How Donald Trump’s business ties are already jeopardizing U.S. interests.” In the piece, Eichenwald describes the potential turmoil as “the vast scope of the clashes between the Trumps’ extensive business dealings and the interests of America.”
This is a more honest description of the “conflicts of interest” that pose to set the President’s personal interests in competition and conflict with the interests of the entire rest of the nation.
Reports on the myriad ways in which Trump may be compromised, as both head of state and head of government, by his business dealings are coming so fast and furious that we risk becoming inured to the gravity of the risk we all face.
Which is why his national interest-jeopardizing business dealings must be addressed seriously and urgently.
To that end, 23 Senate Democrats, led by Senator Tom Carper (D-DE), have released a letter addressed to Trump, demanding he divest his assets.
The letter urges the President-elect to “follow the advice of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), an independent, nonpartisan ethics agency, and divest his business holdings in order to resolve potential conflicts of interest and fulfill constitutional requirements before he assumes office.”
“As a businessman with assets around the world, your holdings have the potential for serious conflicts between the national interest and your personal financial interests,” the Senators write.
Whether the President of the United States makes decisions about potential trade agreements or sending troops into war, the American people need to know that their President is acting in their best interest. Divestiture of your businesses and the establishment of a qualified blind trust controlled by an independent party would provide assurances that you will put the interests of the American people first and are fully committed to the success of your presidency.
Trump was scheduled to give a press conference on the subject of the inherent conflicts of interest between his business and the presidency, but he canceled it, citing “Busy times!”
That the President-elect (supposedly) cannot find the time to address a crucially important potential threat to the nation’s interests is not reassuring. He continues to prioritize his own whims over the country’s needs, which is a shameful stain on the office into which he has not yet even been inaugurated.