Donald Trump's Ethical Conflicts Are Sowing the Seeds Of His Own Destruction

Donald Trump's Ethical Conflicts Are Sowing the Seeds Of His Own Destruction
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, together with his family, from left, Eric Trump, Melania Trump and Tiffany Trump, waves part of a ribbon after cutting the ribbon during the grand opening of Trump International Hotel in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016. Donald Trump and his children hosted an official ribbon cutting ceremony and press conference to celebrate the grand opening of his new hotel. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

This is the set up via the Washington Post:

About 100 foreign diplomats, from Brazil to Turkey, gathered at the Trump International Hotel this week to sip Trump-branded champagne, dine on sliders and hear a sales pitch about the U.S. president-elect’s newest hotel.

The event for the diplomatic community, held one week after the election, was in the Lincoln Library, a junior ballroom with 16-foot ceilings and velvet drapes that is also available for rent.

Some attendees won raffle prizes — among them overnight stays at other Trump properties around the world — allowing them to become better acquainted with the business holdings of the new commander in chief.

The Trumps opened the hotel in the Old Post Office pavilion, a 117-year-old property the company leases from the federal government. Officials at the General Services Administration, the landlord, have consulted the Office of Government Ethics about how to handle such conflicts, but the measures preventing other federal employees from profiting from their positions do not apply to the president.

“Consequently, there is no current legal requirement that would compel the President to relinquish financial interests because of a conflict of interest,” an analysis produced last month by the Congressional Research Service at the Library of Congress said.

Just because somenthing isn’t illegal on its face doesn’t mean that it is a) a good idea or b) that it can’t be politically damaging. If you doubt that for a second keep in mind that, at least according to the FBI, the Clinton Foundation is completely above board.

Trump, unlike any past president, brings a massive amount on ethical conflicts to the White House. Unlike other wealthy presidents whose money was tied up in traditional stocks and bonds. They could plausibly put their holdings in a “blind trust” (both Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama did the same with their manhood) that they cannot manage or influence. However, Trump’s fortune is linked to real estate and it is inextricably tied to his personal brand. He can’t put it in a blind trust because the valuable component of the investments is Trump himself. The Democrats know this and they fully intend to use it to destroy his ability to govern:

Democrats are looking to create big headaches for Donald Trump over his unprecedented ethical conflicts.

In the 11 days since the Republican’s upset victory, the president-elect’s political opponents have hammered him for giving no sign that he will follow historic norms and really separate himself from his vast financial holdings. They’re baffled that Trump and his family are still promoting their businesses, especially on an official transition website, and they’re questioning how Trump’s son-in-law can legally land a job in the White House.

As the minority party, the Democrats can’t call official hearings or pump out subpoenas. Still, they are primed to birddog Trump’s administration if it’s caught doing government business that’s seen as lining the president’s own pockets. Even with their diminished numbers, they can run their own investigations, drown Trump’s agencies with requests for public records and inspector general reports, pepper his nominees with questions and just generally work to make Republicans uncomfortable with their oversight of a president who ran on a promise to “drain the swamp.”

The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board has it exactly right. Trump needs to liquidate his holdings and get rid of this ethical Mount St. Helens that he is sitting on:

The President is exempt from federal conflict-of-interest laws, but Mr. Trump’s plan is already hitting political turbulence. Earlier this week Ivanka Trump’s jewelry company took heat for promoting a $10,800 diamond bangle that Ms. Trump donned during a family interview on CBS’s “60 Minutes.” The company chalked up the incident to an overeager marketing executive, but this is only the beginning of such media catcalls. By the way, Ms. Trump is married to Jared Kushner, who could be a useful adviser in the White House.

Mr. Trump’s best option is to liquidate his stake in the company. Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, ethics lawyers for George W. Bush and President Obama, respectively, have laid out a plan, which involves a leveraged buyout or an initial public offering.

Mr. Trump could put the cash proceeds in a true blind trust. The Trump children can keep the assets in their name, and he can transfer more to them as long as he pays a hefty gift tax. Finally, Mr. Trump should stipulate that he and his children will have no communication about family business matters.

The alternatives are fraught, perhaps even for the Trump Organization’s bottom line: Thanks to a Clinton Administration precedent, Presidents can face litigation in private matters—so the company will become a supermagnet for lawsuits. Rudy Giuliani lamented on television that divestment would put the Trump children “out of work,” but reorganizing the company may be better for business than unending scrutiny from the press. Progressive groups will soon be out of power and they are already shouting that the Trump family wants to profit from the Presidency.

This is the only real way forward for Trump if he has the vaguest interest in remaining true to the theme of his campaign. He promised to “drain the swamp” but unless he takes decisive action he’s going to become just another turtle in the muck.

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