Donald Trump’s promises to “drain the swamp” should begin with his own shady business dealings.
It’s been weeks since the election, and Trump hasn’t given us any signs that he will divest himself from his business interests. In fact, it appears the President-elect and his family have sought to profit off his new office– putting his company’s interest above the country.
Kellyanne Conway made the rounds on the Sunday shows, trying to defend Trump’s murky ethical dilemma. But no one is buying it.
On Meet the Press yesterday, NBC’s Mark Murray pointed out that Trump has yet to offer a plan as to how he would deal with potential conflicts of interest. Helene Cooper from the New York Times outlined some of Trump’s business interests abroad, while Yahoo News’ Matt Bai noted that Trump has flouted conventional wisdom throughout his campaign and seemed to view politics as lesser than his business.
Mr. Trump’s family appears to have been preparing for the transition to the Oval Office and ways to capitalize on it both in the United States and around the globe. In April, even before Mr. Trump had secured the Republican nomination, his business moved to trademark the name American Idea for use in branding hotels, spas and concierge services, according to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. It was one of more than two dozen trademark applications that Mr. Trump and members of his family filed in the United States and around the world while he was running for president.
Days after Donald Trump’s election victory, a news agency in the former Soviet republic of Georgia reported that a long-stalled plan for a Trump-branded tower in a seaside Georgian resort town was now back on track. Likewise, the local developer of a Trump Tower planned for Buenos Aires announced last week, three days after Trump spoke with Argentina’s president, that the long-delayed project was moving ahead. Meanwhile, foreign government leaders seeking to speak with Trump have reached out to the president-elect through his overseas network of business partners, an unusually informal process for calls traditionally coordinated with the U.S. State Department.
[O]n October 20 just a few weeks prior to the election, Trump Hotel Collection CEO Eric Danziger showed up to a hospitality conference in Hong Kong, and that’s where he told the Hong Kong newspaper that Trump Hotel Collection plans to build 20 to 30 Trump Hotels in major Chinese cities in the coming years. … [T]he fact that the incoming president of the largest economy on the planet has expressed an interest in building two dozen hotels on state-owned land in China puts China’s leadership in a potentially powerful position with President-Elect Trump.
Among the conflict-of-interest questions swirling around U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s global business interests, Trump Tower at Century City in Manila’s financial district stands out. Century Properties Group Inc. of Manila, the company behind the $150 million tower that’s set to open next year, paid as much as $5 million to use the Trump name, in a licensing agreement that’s common for the president-elect. Trump has at least 10 similar licensing deals around the world, each of which might complicate his administration’s international diplomacy, according to ethics specialists. But in Manila, there’s an extra connection: Century Properties’ chief executive and controlling stakeholder, Jose E.B. Antonio, was appointed last month to serve as a special government envoy to the U.S. for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has vowed to expel American troops from his country and ranted against President Barack Obama.
Earlier this month, the Obama administration said it wanted more study and tribal input before deciding whether to allow the partially built pipeline to cross under a Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota. However, with less than two months before Trump will be sworn into office, the final decision on the disputed pipeline will likely be passed on to him. The Dakota Access Pipeline, which intersects with Trump’s vast financial holdings, is likely to be the first of many similar conflicts of interest that will surface as the new billionaire president assumes office.
In fact, at a certain level, “conflict of interest” is an unsatisfying phrase, which fails to capture the scope and scale of the problem. For the typical American, it may even sound dull and legalistic. Maybe it’s better to frame this in a more direct way: the president-elect, fresh off his national victory in which more voters preferred the other candidate, appears to be using the office he does not yet have to advance his financial interests around the world.
Donald Trump has promised that he will hand over control of the Trump Organization to his three eldest adult children—Ivanka Trump, Eric Trump, and Donald Jr.—an arrangement he has likened to a “blind trust,” despite the fact that a true blind trust would require the president-elect to liquidate his financial interests in the business or sell it to an independent third party. But his recent meeting with the Indian businessmen who hope to profit from their relationship with the 45th president is only the latest in a series of incidents that suggest Trump’s presidency will be riddled with significant conflicts of interest. Two days after he won the election, Trump named Ivanka, Eric, and Donald to be part of his White House transition team, making it unclear where the Trump administration will end and where the Trump Organization will begin.