“Conflicts of interest” does not begin to fully describe the threat posed by a President-elect who has no shame. Steve Benen tries to expose Trump’s global business entanglements, Trump’s conflicts of interest create a test for political system. I say “tries” because we don’t know about the full extent of Trump’s financial exposure to foreign interests in the absence of his tax returns and a listing of his investors.What does he owe, to whom, and how much? What influence will be peddled in the new White House?
Doyle McManus addresses the problem in this Daily Star editorial: Trump admits he has a kleptocracy problem, but so far, he hasn’t got a solution.
One option, ethics lawyers say, is for Trump to create a “firewall” between himself and the business. He couldn’t discuss the business with his children or anyone else, and he would have to recuse himself from policy questions that specifically affect the business; his children would have to get government approval for foreign business deals. All of this would be in writing with a White House lawyer empowered to enforce it.
That might be workable — but only if Trump means what he says. He hasn’t measured up to that standard so far.
In the past two weeks, he urged British politicians to lobby against offshore wind farms that could be visible from Trump golf courses in Scotland; boosted his business partner in Turkey in a phone call with the Turkish president; and brought his daughter Ivanka, who handles Trump business in Asia, into a meeting with Japan’s prime minister.
And when all that was reported, Trump erupted on Twitter. “Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world,” he wrote. “Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!”
But it wasn’t only the media. Rep. Justin Amash, a tea party Republican from Michigan, responded with another tweet: “You rightly criticized Hillary for Clinton Foundation. If you have contracts with foreign (governments), it’s certainly a big deal, too. [hashtag]DrainTheSwamp.”
The truth is, opportunities for conflicts of interest will arise whether Trump seeks them out or not. Entrepreneurs will try their luck. Foreign governments will seek to gain favor with the White House by cutting deals with the president’s children, just as they can in a third world kleptocracy. What have they got to lose?
Nothing. They have everything to gain.
The NY Times takes a stab at answering those questions about Trump’s business empire in Potential Conflicts Around the Globe for Trump, the Businessman President
The globe is dotted with such potential conflicts. Mr. Trump’s companies have business operations in at least 20 countries, with a particular focus on the developing world, including outposts in nations like India, Indonesia and Uruguay, according to a New York Times analysis of his presidential campaign financial disclosures. What’s more, the true extent of Mr. Trump’s global financial entanglements is unclear, since he has refused to release his tax returns and has not made public a list of his lenders.
The Times leads with this anecdote that illustrates the entanglements likely to recur in the administration of President Profit.
MANILA — On Thanksgiving Day, a Philippine developer named Jose E. B. Antonio hosted a company anniversary bash at one of Manila’s poshest hotels. He had much to be thankful for.
In October, he had quietly been named a special envoy to the United States by the Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte. Mr. Antonio was nearly finished building a $150 million tower in Manila’s financial district — a 57-story symbol of affluence and capitalism, which bluntly promotes itself with the slogan “Live Above the Rest.” And now his partner on the project, Donald J. Trump, had just been elected president of the United States.
After the election, Mr. Antonio flew to New York for a private meeting at Trump Tower with the president-elect’s children, who have been involved in the Manila project from the beginning, as have Mr. Antonio’s children. The Trumps and Antonios have other ventures in the works, including Trump-branded resorts in the Philippines, Mr. Antonio’s son Robbie Antonio said.
“We will continue to give you products that you can enjoy and be proud of,” the elder Mr. Antonio, one of the richest men in the Philippines, told the 500 friends, employees and customers gathered for his star-studded celebration in Manila.
Be proud, America.
Let’s add a fourth K: Katastrophy. We have a President-elect who has no shame and is prepared to do whatever he wants - for whom and to whom.
And so, congressional Republicans, the nation turns to you and wonders what kind of oversight, if any, Americans can expect. How comfortable are House and Senate GOP leaders with a president-elect who appears to be eager to use his office to enrich himself and his family? How far will elected officials lower the bar for propriety in order to accommodate the suspected con man who’ll soon occupy the Oval Office?
The Washington Post’s E.J. Dionne Jr. added today, “If Trump wasn’t ready to put his business life behind him, he should not have run for president. And if Republicans — after all of their ethical sermons about [Hillary] Clinton — do not now demand that the incoming president unequivocally cut all of his and his family’s ties to his companies, they will be fully implicated in any Trump scandal that results from a shameful and partisan double standard.”
The congressional Republicans have 52 days till Trump takes office and counting to step up and rein in the shameless one. (You can follow the countdown here.)