Then it was what to do about putting his business assets in a blind trust, as is also the tradition. It's complicated for Trump, because his wealth is not simple investments that can be easily shielded from his knowledge and managed by a competent financial manager. But, not to worry, Trump said. He'll turn the business over to his three adult children. (As if they would never talk to their father -- or have a financial interest themselves in profiting from the presidency.)
And then, during this transition period, we hear about business associates from India having meetings with President-elect Trump. Of course, we can be sure that they did not discuss how to use his new role as U.S. president to drum up business for the new hotel the Trump Organization is partnering with in India. Really? And on election night, he spoke with his Argentine business associates about future deals there. So when does the blind trust arrangement start?
Then we find that daughter Ivanka has been sitting in on meetings with world leaders like the prime minister of Japan -- while having her own business interests for her line of fashion items. And Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, has emerged as one of Trump's closest advisers, and now they want to find an official way to bring him into the White House. The nepotism laws would seem to prohibit him having a paid position. But could Trump make him an unpaid adviser, with access and security clearance? Again, the blind trust. Kushner is married to Ivanka. They're looking into it.
Never mind the next four years. It's already started -- the commercialization of the United States presidency, using the presidency to further personal business interests. Trump's new hotel in Washington is encouraging stays there to gain advantage with the president. Diplomats have said they've felt pressure to do so. We can forget about the blind trust. The only people who would be blind to what's going on would be the American people, certainly not Trump, himself.
When asked about all this, Trump was dismissive. He said that all this concern about his business interests was known -- and thus "baked into" the election. In other words, he's claiming that the American people knew -- and approved, by voting for him.
Well, that's not even true on the face of it, that voters knew the extent -- in part because he refused to release his tax returns. They voted with lack of information -- plus hordes of misinformation. We now know more details of the conflicts of interest: that he owes $300 million to Deutsche Bank, which is currently in negotiation over a proposed $14 billion fine against the bank for lying to its investors during the 2008 housing crisis. Trump also is in debt to the Bank of China for hundreds of millions of dollars; the bank is state-owned, meaning the same government that Trump, as U.S. president, would be negotiating with on many sensitive issues.
How will we know that they won't make a secret deal, changing the course of world affairs in China's favor in exchange for personal debt forgiveness? The same is true with the debt he owes Goldman Sachs, which is itself being investigated by the Justice Deprtment, while Trump has vowed to get rid of Dodd-Frank and other regulations that would be in the investment firm's interest. Just those three are enough conflicts of interest to disqualify him -- without some effective, true blind trust.
But here's the thing: Trump is actually right. According to an article by Paul Blumenthal, political reporter for Huffington Post, "Government conflict of interest regulations do not apply to the president of the United States. Theoretically, Trump could legally continue to manage his Trump Organization while in office. In his meeting with the New York Times on Tuesday afternoon, Trump said his lawyers have reached the same conclusion.
This position is one step away from Richard Nixon's: "If the president does it, it's not illegal." On the other hand, he could also choose to abide by the regulations that apply to other federal government officials. And that is what we expect an ethical president to do.
Essentially it is "baked into the election" when the voters chose Trump -- which is why it matters to elect someone of good character and ethical principles. The president is expected to be above reproach in his official duties, as he takes the oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. We've never had, in modern times, someone so unconcerned about propriety and decorum and so intent on willfully tearing up traditions.
So, it appears that if we don't like it, it's up to Congress to investigate the
Folks, unless and until he does something so reprehensible that a Republican House would vote to impeach and then a Republican Senate vote to convict, we're stuck with him, for better or worse. For four years.