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Unprecedented Conflicts


After spending the last year promising to fight against self-enrichment, President-elect Donald Trump has already used the election to bolster his business. Trump made the bogus claim that “the president can’t have a conflict of interest”, but ethics experts on both sides disagree. Trump’s international dealings in over 20 countries threaten to cloud his foreign policy decisions, he has openly encouraged diplomats to stay at his new hotel in Washington, and discussed his own deals on calls with foreign leaders, a blatant attempt to line the Trump dynasty’s pocketbook.

Here’s the buzz:

Just this morning on CNN, law professor Steven Schooner commented on the disarray in Trump’s business handling: “The other thing that’s really important to keep in mind is he’s talking about turning over his business to his adult children, and basically that resolves none of the conflicts that he had to begin with. So this — first of all, doesn’t mean anything. We haven’t seen any of the details, and it doesn’t resolve any of the problems whatsoever.”


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Today on NPR, Senator Ben Cardin framed Trump’s conflicts of interest as a threat to the rule of law and constitutional order of the United States. Sen. Cardin noted, “The Constitution prevents any president from receiving gratuities or gifts from a foreign power. The Trump enterprises are involved in countries around the world, and it would be almost impossible for the President to be able to conduct business without foreign entities trying to curry favors by how they treat his business enterprises.” Listen to the full interview here.


New York Times: Larry Buchanan and KarenYourish: The Array of Conflicts of Interest Facing the Trump Presidency

Donald J. Trump’s global business empire will create an unprecedented number of conflicts of interest for a United States president, experts in legal ethics say. Mr. Trump has said he will separate himself from his company before taking the oath of office, but he has not offered any details on how. Ethics experts warn that if Mr. Trump puts his children in control of operations but continues to own the company, he will remain vulnerable to charges that his actions as president are guided by personal financial interests.

Vox: Libby Nelson: Be very skeptical of Donald Trump’s plan to avoid business conflicts of interest

Donald Trump is currently both president-elect of the United States and chair of the Trump Organization, his vast business that includes real estate development projects around the world. It’s an unprecedented situation — one that’s extremely vulnerable to conflicts of interest and the potential for corruption. Foreign governments are already trying to curry favor with the Trump administration by staying in Trump’s hotels and appointing his business partners as diplomatic envoys. Trump has met in his New York office with business partners from India. He brought up an issue he considers crucial to his Scotland golf course, wind farms, in a call with British politician Nigel Farage. And stalled Trump-branded projects in Argentina and the nation of Georgia have suddenly been able to proceed since he was elected president.

Fortune: Tory Newmeyer: Donald Trump’s Looming Giant Conflict of Interest With His New Hotel

Donald Trump’s sparkling new hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington is quickly becoming a monument to the president-elect’s conflict of interest problems. The Trump Organization’s lease with the federal government for the historic building housing the hotel explicitly forbids an elected official from profiting off the deal—a clause that Trump is poised to breach when he takes the oath of office on Jan. 20—something that hasn’t escaped the attention of Congressional Democrats.

Financial Times: Hannah Murphy: Donald Trump’s assets promise draws pithy response from ethics body

The intervention underlines mounting concerns Mr Trump could use his time in the White House to exert influence that would directly affect his assets. Those business ties could also leave the presidency open to influence from foreign interests. Although the US president is subject to far less stringent conflict of interest rules than cabinet secretaries, people appointed to cabinet posts have traditionally put their business interests in a blind trust or sold off their holdings. Mr Trump has made no mention of taking either option.

Buzzfeed: Aram Roston: Trump’s Post-Election Tax Subsidy

Six days after Donald Trump won the presidential election, the federal government finalized a key step toward a tax subsidy worth as much as $32 million for a company that is owned by Trump, his daughter Ivanka, and two of his sons. That company owns Trump’s luxury Washington, DC, hotel, located in a taxpayer-owned historic landmark known as the Old Post Office Building, which Trump leases from the federal government. The hotel has become emblematic of Trump’s many potential conflicts of interest, because when he becomes president he will effectively be both landlord and tenant. The latest step toward the massive tax credit, which has not been previously reported, puts that conflict in sharp relief.

Vanity Fair: Emily Jane Fox:It’s Happening: Trump Already Got a Post-Election Business Break

Much has been said about whether and how Donald Trump’s new role as president of the United States will impact his standing as a businessman. Will diplomats and foreign leaders frequent his businesses in order to court the leader of the free world? (The answer already appears to be yes.) What entanglements does Trump have that could impact his policies as president? (Many.) What laws prevent conflicts of interests? (Not many.) … Not long after Trump boasted about his decision to limit his conflicts of interest, news broke that one such conflict had already arisen in the weeks since he was elected. According toBuzzFeed, Trump got one step closer to receiving a tax subsidy worth as much as $32 million when the federal government moved forward with the approval process just six days after the election.

NPR: Jackie Northam: Trump’s Loans From Troubled German Bank Pose Conflict Of Interest

..In 2013, Trump signed a 60-year lease for the building, once the headquarters of the U.S. Post Office, and began a $200 million renovation to turn it into an upscale hotel with the help of loans from Deutsche Bank, a large German bank. Trump’s financial disclosure reports, viewed by NPR, show he currently owes Deutsche Bank roughly $365 million in loans for the Washington hotel, another one in Chicago and a Florida golf course. Deutsche Bank is one of the large global banks investing in and betting on real estate around the world. So it makes some sense it would be exposed to Trump, says Simon Johnson, a professor at MIT’s Sloane School of Management. He says Trump has had a relationship with the Frankfurt-based bank spanning nearly two decades, and it is his largest financial backer. But Johnson says Deutsche Bank is in deep trouble with the Justice Department over a number of allegations.

The Atlantic: JeremyVenook: Donald Trump’s Conflicts of Interest: A Crib Sheet

Since his election, an ever-increasing level of attention has been paid to the unprecedented conflicts of interest that President-elect Donald J. Trump seems likely to bring with him when he assumes office. His responses to the concerns have been varied and, at times, contradictory. His first statement on the subject, which came via Twitter, suggested that he would make little effort to avoid entangling his business and his office, and would instead attack those who point that out: “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world. Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!” A few days later, in a conference with the editorial staff of The New York Times, he appeared similarly defiant, asserting, “The law’s totally on my side, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

Associated Press: Bernard Condon: Lawyers: Trump Has to Sell DC Hotel Before Taking Office

It’s a glittering jewel in Donald Trump’s hotel empire. Securing the rights to use the government-owned building where it is housed took him more than a year of negotiating. The resulting lease itself runs hundreds of pages, complicated and dreadfully dull. Dull save for clause 37.19 on top of pag e 103, which has suddenly become the subject of great discussion among experts on government contracting law, and not a few Trump critics. If some of the experts are correct — a big if — the first 43 words of this clause could force Trump to relinquish his equity stake in the Trump International Hotel just down the street from the White House. The key part: No “elected official of the Government of the United States” shall be “admitted to any share or part of this Lease.”

Politico: Madeline Conway: House Dems: Trump’s Post Office lease presents ‘egregious conflict of interest’

Top House Democrats are calling on the General Services Administration to explain how it plans to handle legal concerns presented by Donald Trump’s lease of the Old Post Office building in Washington, where the president-elect recently opened a hotel. Trump is leasing the historic building on Pennsylvania Avenue from the GSA, a setup that has raised conflict-of-interest concerns among legal experts given that, as president, Trump will appoint the head of the agency. The lease, signed in 2013, is for 60 years and $180 million. The GSA released a statement earlier this week saying that it “plans to coordinate with the president-elect’s team to address any issues that may be related to the Old Post Office building.”

Bloomberg: Timothy L. O’Brien: Trump’s Business Is Not Too Big to Sell

Trump’s supporters have argued that his business is too complex and sprawling to be sold or managed by others. Journalists have helped this argument along by routinely referring to Trump’s “vast real-estate empire.” In reality, though, the Trump Organization is neither vast nor an empire…Trump repeatedly insists that he did not seek the presidency to enrich himself; making America great again is more important to him than making money. He can demonstrate that he’s serious about those pledges by severing his own and his children’s ties with the Trump Organization.

CBS News: Staff: Potential Trump conflicts of interest spur new questions

President- elect Trump’s luxury hotel in Washington is prompting new questions about potential conflicts of interest. Top oversight and Transportation Committee Democrats are calling for more information about the lease Mr. Trump has on the building…“He cut a great deal for himself vis-a-vis the United States government,” said Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. “That’s fine if he wants to stay in business. But if he wants to come over and be president of the United States, he can’t be both the landlord and the tenant in the building at the same time.”

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