Sen. Elizabeth Warren, with support from Senate and House Democrats is not going to stand by any longer while President-elect Donald Trump neglects to get his businesses in order, and out of his hands for his term.
After continual prompts to sell off his businesses and holdings in advance of his inauguration, Donald Trump has yet to do so. In fact, when pressed by the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), Donald Trump’s team fired back that he would be putting his assets and holdings into a half-blind trust.
To ensure that the incoming administration is making decisions for the American people, and not for their own benefit, Warren is introducing legislation to require Trump and Vice-president-elect Mike Pence to divest everything that may pose a conflict of interest and put the money in a fully blind trust.
‘The American people deserve to know that the President of the United States is working to do what’s best for the country – not using his office to do what’s best for himself and his businesses.’
This legislation would also ensure that Melania Trump and Karen Pence also followed these ethical rules, as well as any dependent children.
Warren has also included that presidential nominees and the president must release their tax documents.
The legislation, however, will not go through the Senate easily. Warren will likely have an extremely difficult time pushing it through a Senate under GOP control.
Even without the legislation, if Trump doesn’t eliminate his conflicts of interest, he risks being in violation of the Constitution. In Article I, Section 9 it states:
‘No Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] shall, without Consent of Congress, accept… any present, Emolument, Office, or Title of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince or foreign State.’
Of course, it is the international nature of Trump’s businesses that raises the risk of violation. One example is that the Bank of China is a lender for one of Trump’s Manhattan towers. They could offer Trump a better deal in an attempt to influence policy or U.S.-China relations. Making the situation even more complicated is the lack of disclosure from Trump on the extent of these global ties.
However, if Congress shoots down Warren’s legislation, and Trump does not follow through on eliminating all conflicts of interest, some responsibility is transferred to Congress as well. They will also be acting in violation of the Constitution.
Most people are expecting Trump to come forward and argue that it is a disincentive for businessmen (non-career politicians) to involve themselves in public service, if he has to do this. There are probably also concerns that a quick sell-off will result in a loss of value. Problematically, his inauguration is less than two weeks away, and there is no news to date of how, if, or when these sell-offs might occur.
To date, Donald Trump has provided minimal detail. In late December, he told reporters that:
‘It’s a very routine thing. It’s not a big deal. You people are making that a big deal, the business, because look, No. 1, when I won, they all knew I had a big business all over the place… It’s a much bigger business than anybody thought.’
That is actually slightly untrue, there has never been a president with as little previous involvement in public service or arguably, with as far-reaching global ties as Trump. The president-elect never committed himself to the idea that eliminating conflicts of interest would be difficult. At this same interaction with press, Trump claimed:
‘…I think that’s going to work out very easily. It’s actually a very simple situation. It’s not a big deal.’
Trump then promised reporters a press conference in early January to make public his plans to divest and manage these conflicts. However, Kellyanne Conway was sent to spread the word that this press conference will be re-scheduled for late January because of the “convoluted and complex” nature of his businesses, ties and holdings.
Not as simple as you thought, Trump? In any case, he better start making decisions and acting quickly, as he is running out of time.
Feature image via Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla. All rights reserved. Image has been modified from its original form.