The bill would bring the president under the same law that requires most public officials to free themselves of conflicts of interest before taking office.
“This is bigger than our president-elect. This is bigger than this moment,” said Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking member of the House Oversight Committee,
“This is about our democracy and the laws that go with it,” he said at a forum at the Capitol, Wednesday (Dec. 14).
Right now, the president has no obligation to address conflicts, although past presidents have taken it upon themselves to either sell assets or place them in a blind trust to avoid the problem.
“A President should conduct himself ‘as if’ he were bound by financial conflict-of-interest laws,” wrote Office of Government Ethics Director Walter Shaub, in a letter Tuesday (Dec. 13) to Sen. Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.).
“Transferring operational control of a company to one’s children would not constitute the establishment of a qualified blind trust, nor would it eliminate conflicts of interest,” he added.
Trump has talked about taking similar steps, but has yet to do so. He had called a news conference for today (Dec. 15) to reveal how he planned to handle his myriad conflicts.
“The media tries so hard to make my move to the White House, as it pertains to my business, so complex — when actually it isn’t!” he wrote on Twitter.
As it turns out, it’s much more complicated. He canceled the news conference.
His transition team now says he now will detail his plans in January after he takes office. He’s stated previously that his adult sons and an executive team will make business decision for the Trump Organization.
But sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and daughter Ivanka had seats at the table in his meeting with tech tycoons and Trump Cabinet nominees on Wednesday.
Those in the meeting included Amazon chief executive and Washington Post owner Jeffrey P. Bezos, Apple CEO Tim Cook, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, according to The Washington Post.
Ivanka also sat in on an earlier meeting between her father and Japanese officials. Ivanka has business interests in Japan.
Democratic senators issued a statement today (Dec. 15) outlining their bill. It will require the president to “disclose and divest” from any conflicts.
Under the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the president is forbidden from receiving gifts or remuneration of any kind from foreign officials or foreign governments. Yet Trump has been encouraging foreign dignitaries to stay at his new Washington, D.C. hotel.
Explaining the delay, Trump spokesman offered the following:
[Trump] “obviously has a great number of businesses, a great number of properties and developments that he has put together, and quite frankly that takes time as he transitions away from being the leader of this very successful company. The priority here is to make sure we get it right. If that takes a little more time, I think the American people understand that.”
Trump told “Fox News Sunday,” he’s willing to turn down “billions of dollars of deals” to avoid conflicts.
“I’m not going to be doing deals at all,” he said. “I have the right to do it. I just don’t want to do it.”
Trump’s international entanglements were exposed in November when the The Trump International Hotel & Tower in Toronto went bankrupt. Trump’s partner in the property is a Russian billionaire business mogul with ties to Vladimir Putin.
Trump had a lucrative licensing and management contract on the $300 million property with Russian billionaire Alex Shnaider. He’s co-founder with Ukrainian billionaire Eduard Shifrin of the Midland Group, an international trading and investment holding company.
Trump and children, Eric, Donald Jr. and Ivanka, led the ribbon-cutting ceremony when the tower opened in 2012.
Shnaider, who owns the property through a subsidiary known as Talon International, is suing the Trump organization, claiming it mismanaged the project.