It’s time for Republicans opposed to Trump to start putting the screws to him hard over this question…………….pin him down, don’t let him escape
Trump claims that he’s worth some $ ten billion. I, and many others, think the actual number is far less…a great deal less…more like ONE whole zero less. But for purposes of this discussion (since the bigger number works for us) let’s give the Donald his presumed due, and accept his valuation.
A President cannot have direct, or even indirect control or influence over any significant assets because almost any action the President takes while in office could be deemed to be a conflict of interest. To cite one obvious example, a President couldn’t own a significant amount of stock in a defense contractor.
In the past, individuals facing this problem have had two solutions available:
1. Liquidate assets, and park the proceeds in US Treasuries
2. Place all the assets in a blind trust, whereby you cede all control and decisions to the trustee.
Which brings us to Trump……
The subject came up briefly a while back, and as usual, Trump was all over the place. First, he seemed to accept the need for a blind trust for his assets. Then, he professed not to actually understand what a blind trust does, how it works. Lastly, he mentioned how, as it was a “great company” ( does that include Trump University, Trump steaks, Trump vodka, Trump ties?) he thought that Eric or Ivanka could run the company while he was busy running the country..you know, building walls, doing “great deals”…..
There are two YUGE problems with any potential Trump blind trust:
1. Picking a trustee that would pass the smell test. Go ahead, think about it. Anyone that Trump would pick would likely be viewed as being too close to him, and whose supposed independence would be questioned continuously. And any potential trustee that could pass the smell test would probably not want the job, because they’d be questioned/suspected/maligned 24/7. To take just one situation, Trump has said many times that he could have easily settled the Trump University lawsuits, but didn’t because he felt he was in the right. ( Which is a crock of BS…but that’s not the issue.) The trustee would be empowered to settle it, and would likely do so.
2. The vast majority of Trump’s assets are in real estate. Trump has stated again and again that he wants to keep them in the family, for his children, after he leaves office. He’s invested a great deal in branding them with his name. It is thus almost impossible to place them into a truly “blind” trust. Let me explain…..
Suppose you had a stock portfolio of one billion. You put it into a blind trust. The trustee could liquidate everything, and then buy whatever he deems prudent. You, the grantor, have no say. Indeed, you will have no idea what the trustee has bought or sold…what companies you own. Thus, your decisions as president won’t be influenced by what stocks you own.
But suppose, instead you own the Trump Tower. You put that into a blind trust. The trustee can now decide how much to charge for rent, what type of leases..office or retail….whether or not to sell the building, and for what price. But unless and until the building is sold..which becomes a matter or public record, the presumption is that it will remain with the Trumps, and thus, should a Trump administration decide to say, give NYC $5 billion to build a new subway in midtown, with a new station under Trump Tower…you’ve got the perpetual appearance of a YUGE conflict of interest.
Basically, I don’t see any way this can work for Trump. Any possible solution creates more problems. And those are problems for Trump..big ones. But it is way past time for Rubio, Cruz, and other GOP leaders to start demanding that he provide a detailed plan. We can’t let this go until after he is sworn in. Force him to “deal with it”..and he’ll do so badly, and likely get thrown way off his game.