Friday, January 13, 2017

Six critical questions about conflicts of interest that Donald Trump must answer

On Wednesday, President-elect Trump is scheduled to give his first press conference since the election — in fact, his first press conference in 168 days.

While the focus of the conference remains unclear, Trump has previously hinted that he’ll use the platform to unveil his ethics plan for his time in the White House, a crucial step given the tangled — and largely opaque — web of problems that his business empire presents. It’s also the first time since the election that a pool of reporters will be able to ask Trump about how he plans to deal with his conflicts.

No other modern president has entered the Oval Office carrying the same level of financial baggage as Donald Trump.

As the head of a luxury hotelier, Trump accepts money through his hotels from foreign diplomats and their governments. As a business magnate, he sells his name to properties around the world — properties now stamped with the name of the U.S. presidency that may become targets. A foreign bank holds millions of dollars of his debt.

As president, Trump will frequently be faced with decisions that could impact the empire he spent his life creating, decisions that could leave him richer or poorer. The potential for corruption is vast, and the appearance of conflicts is near-assured.

The Office of Government Ethics has staunchly and repeatedly counseled that the only solution to Trump’s ethical quandary is for him to fully divest from his holdings and place them in a blind trust, like every other modern president.

But Trump has thus far floated only half-measures, which aren’t nearly enough, according to the Office of Government Ethics and prominent ethics lawyers.

That leaves the public with a lot of important questions to ask the president-elect.

Will you continue to receive payments from foreign governments?

“The founders did not want any foreign payments to the president. Period,” Norman Eisen, Chief Ethics Counsel for Barack Obama, previously told ThinkProgress in an email.

In the Constitution, this is principle is laid out in what is known as the emoluments clause, which bars the President from receiving presents, payments, titles, or offices “of any kind whatever” from foreign governments or their leaders.  

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