Friday, December 16, 2016

Trump faces ethics onslaught

Donald Trump’s conflict-of-interest woes are mounting, as Democrats and independent federal agencies step up scrutiny after the president-elect put off a promised announcement on how he planned to safeguard his administration’s ethics.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, hosted a mock hearing on Wednesday devoted to the conflicts of interest that could stem from the billionaire’s business entanglements at home and abroad. He was flanked by former White House ethics lawyers Norm Eisen and Richard Painter, Trump critics who believe he stands to violate the Constitution if he refuses to sell his businesses.

Federal agencies, too, are weighing in: On Monday, the U.S. Office of Government Ethics urged Trump to divest his businesses or place his assets in a blind trust, instead of asking his children to manage them.

And early Wednesday, four Democrats in Congress said that the General Services Administration has concluded that Trump must divest his financial interests in his new luxury Washington hotel, located in the historic Old Post Office building. If he refuses, the lawmakers contended, he will violate the terms of his lease with the federal government as soon as he is inaugurated, since it bars elected officials from benefiting from the arrangement. (The GSA came to a slightly different conclusion.)

Trump had promised to lay such concerns to rest at a press conference scheduled for Thursday, but on Monday his team abruptly canceled those plans. Instead, Trump tweeted that he will leave his businesses before Jan. 20 to “focus full time on the presidency,” while his two adult sons, “plus executives,” manage them. He also pledged, without offering more details, that “no new deals will be done” while he is in office. Read story here 

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