June 30, 2017


Mixing Politics with Business: A Master List of Trump's Conflicts of Interest (Kate Brannen, June 30, 2017, just Security)

Remember that giant pile of manila folders?

They were stacked high at Donald Trump's press conference on Jan. 11. While no one was allowed to take a closer look at them, the unlabeled folders were said to contain the documents that Trump had signed in order to hand over control of his business to his two sons, Don Jr. and Eric.

The move was supposed to free Trump of any conflicts of of interest as he became president, or at least give the appearance that he'd done that. Sheri Dillon, of the law firm Morgan Lewis, said at the January press conference that Trump had asked her firm to design a structure that would "completely isolate him from the management of the company." As part of this arrangement no new foreign deals would be made while Trump was president. New domestic deals would be allowed but would undergo vigorous vetting, according to Dillon. Trump would limit how much information about the business could be shared with him. And the Trump Organization, through its social media and marketing materials, would not refer to Trump as president.

Dillon also addressed the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution, which is meant at a minimum to protect the American public from a foreign government being able to bribe the president. Dillon argued that it could not be construed to cover fair value goods or services, for example, paying one's bill at a Trump hotel. (Trump is now facing three Emoluments lawsuits that argue these kinds of payments represent exactly the kind of foreign payments that the Constitution sought to prohibit.) Despite asserting that foreign governments' spending money at Trump properties could not be considered an emolument, Dillon said Trump would voluntarily donate all profits made from foreign government payments to his hotels to the U.S. Treasury.

This was the ethics plan that Trump laid out for himself and his family. It was meant to assure the public that Trump's private business interests would never overlap or influence his duties as president. His daughter, Ivanka, and her husband, Jared Kushner, made somewhat similar arrangements for themselves and their companies as they got ready to work in the White House. While all three distanced themselves to some degree from the companies and brands that carry their names, their financial stakes in the Trump and Kushner business empires remain the same. As for Trump's sons, they frequently attend White House events and remain very much a part of the political scene surrounding their father.

It has become difficult to track these conflicts of interest stories as they often get drowned out by competing headlines. To help keep up, below is an attempt at a master list. It's not comprehensive, but it starts to paint a picture of the vast number of issues that require oversight and scrutiny during this presidency. If you see anything I've missed, please send it my way. 

Posted by at June 30, 2017 5:16 PM