Experts believe that there is but one action that Mr. Trump can take to assure Americans that he is working to promote only their interests rather than his own fortune or his family’s. That is to appoint a trustee to sell his hotels and other businesses and put the proceeds into a blind trust operated by independent managers.
By doing that, he would eliminate the many pay-for-play opportunities and other forms of corruption that could be exploited by him and by corporations and foreign governments seeking to curry favor with his administration. Such a move would also be consistent with recent practice. To avoid the barest perception of wrongdoing, presidents from both parties going back 40 years put their assets in blind trusts or in Treasury securities and mutual funds, even though federal law didn’t require them to do so. Mr. Trump seems determined to flout this standard.
Instead of a detailed divestiture plan, Mr. Trump and his family have discussed several half-measures. One is to shut down the Donald J. Trump Foundation, which is already under investigation by the attorney general of New York, Eric Schneiderman, for alleged violations of state charity laws. According to the attorney general, the foundation solicited donations from people other than Mr. Trump when it was not registered to do so.
In addition, The Washington Post has reported that the foundation spent money for unapproved purposes, like settling lawsuits involving Mr. Trump’s businesses. It also improperly contributed to a political campaign and apparently spent money to buy baubles at charity auctions for Mr. Trump’s personal use, including portraits of him and a football helmet signed by Tim Tebow. Mr. Schneiderman’s office has said that the foundation cannot be legally dissolved until its investigation is over.
The Trumps and their representatives also told The Times that they’re considering hiring an outside monitor to manage the family business alongside the president-elect’s two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. One of the monitor’s main tasks would be to block improper contacts between the business and the federal government. That’s an absurd role. Mr. Trump and his political appointees would still know what he owns and would still be able to act in his family’s interest even with no direct contact with the two sons. And there is no assurance that the sons could not easily overrule the monitor, who after all would be serving at the pleasure of the family.
Mr. Trump and his family say that they will not enter into new business deals in foreign countries. They are also terminating some real estate projects that are under construction or in the planning stages in Latin America and former Soviet republics. These steps are certainly welcome. But the Trump Organization will remain entangled in many existing deals, some of which involve businesses and executives linked to foreign governments. That’s a big problem, because the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause prohibits American officials from receiving any gifts or income from foreign governments without permission from Congress.
Some legal experts believe that Mr. Trump will be in violation of that clause the moment he takes office because foreign diplomats and their governments have already booked rooms and hosted events at his new Washington hotel at the Old Post Office, enriching the new president. According to a Brookings Institution paper published this month by Norman Eisen, Richard Painter and Laurence Tribe, Congress has from time to time invoked the clause in deciding whether presidents can accept gifts from foreign leaders. In one case, Congress said President Andrew Jackson couldn’t keep a gold medal given to him by Simón Bolívar, the Latin American leader; the medal ended up at the State Department.
A group of Senate Democrats led by Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts have promised legislation that would require presidents and vice presidents to divest their assets and put them in a blind trust. Republicans who control both houses of Congress have expressed no appetite for joining the cause. At the moment, only continued pressure from citizens and groups who care about ethics in government seems remotely capable of persuading Mr. Trump to agree to full divestment. Read More…
scarfo and company cpa