WASHINGTON ― When Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe became the first foreign head of state to meet in person with President-elect Donald Trump, a photograph taken of the official event at Trump Tower in Manhattan showed a curious attendee: Trump’s daughter Ivanka.
The appearance of Ivanka Trump, who is executive vice president of development and acquisitions for the Trump Organization, raises alarm bells for those concerned about the unprecedented potential for conflicts of interest involving the incoming president.
With her two brothers, Don Jr. and Eric, Ivanka has taken the reins of her father’s vast global business empire through a so-called blind trust. (It is not a blind trust.) At the same time, the three adult children are on Trump’s transition team, giving him advice and, apparently, meeting with dignitaries from countries where they could do business in the near future.
“They shouldn’t be on the transition team because they’re going to be running the business,” said Richard Painter, who was White House ethics czar under George W. Bush. “I don’t know why they’re on the transition team. It’s a clear conflict of interest.”
Federal conflict-of-interest laws do not apply to the president, but that does not mean that Trump’s business holdings do not create the appearance of conflicts if not actual conflicts. They are, in fact, unprecedented.
No president has ever held a fortune that spans the globe. He has licensed his name to buildings in far-flung countries, including Azerbaijan, Indonesia, the Philippines, South Korea and Turkey. Some are allies, some are ruled by autocratic dictatorships and some are at odds with American interests. Further, he owes hundreds of millions of dollars each to the government-owned Bank of China and the privately owned Deutsche Bank. The Trump Organization has plans to continue to expand the company around the globe during its namesake’s presidential administration.