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Here A Conflict, There A Conflict, Everywhere A Conflict


skews13
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Article 1 Section 3

 

The President, Vice President, and all Civil Officers shall be removed from office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high crimes, and Misdemeanors.

 

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In the middle of the ongoing Cabinet Apprentice series, the Man in the Trump Tower paused to spend some time with business partners from India to discuss leveraging the White House.

Trump’s first phone call with the Argentinian president is reported to have gone beyond political congratulations.

The three Indian executives ... have been quoted in Indian newspapers, including The Economic Times, as saying they have discussed expanding their partnership with the Trump Organization now that Mr. Trump is president-elect.

Trump’s meeting with UK politician Nigel Farage not only generated outrage when Trump called for his fellow white nationalist to be named as UK Ambassador to the United States, but also failed to steer away from issues that affect Trump's properties.

A report in La Nacion said Trump asked President Mauricio Macri for help with permits at a much-delayed office building project in central Buenos Aires. The newspaper quoted one of the country's most respected journalists, Jorge Lanata, who did not quote a source.

 

When President-elect Donald J. Trump met with the British politician Nigel Farage in recent days, he encouraged Mr. Farage and his entourage to oppose the kind of offshore wind farms that Mr. Trump believes will mar the pristine view from one of his two Scottish golf courses, according to one person present.

Even the new trade envoy from the Philippines just happens to have a Trump connection.

… Duterte appointed real estate magnate Jose E.B. Antonio as a special trade envoy to the U.S. — and Antonio happens to be the man building Trump Tower Manila.

That’s all in a three day period.

 

There’s only one way that Trump can prevent his business dealings from warping US policy, and it’s not a blind trust. It’s liquidation.

 

It would be hard to find a more Trump-friendly print venue than Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal, but even there, it’s clear that Trump can't continue as things stand.

 

That’s very easy to say. Very easy to do, as well, because when it comes to conflict of interest regulations, financial reporting requirements, and the White House, the number of applicable rules is exactly zero.

 

Trump could quite literally spend every other day at his messy desk, buying and selling properties based on upcoming secret plans, and it would still fit within the lack of rules that apply to the presidency.

 

Mr. Trump has for decades run the Trump Organization and during the campaign said if he won the Presidency he’d turn over the keys to Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka, all of whom are now serving on the Trump transition. A company spokesperson says the family business is “in the process of vetting various structures” and that the ultimate arrangement “will comply with all applicable rules and regulations.”

 

There’s been an assumption from the outset that the president would be constrained by public appearance and by simple decency. Neither of these apply to Trump.

 

However, even if Trump was proposing a genuine blind trust, it wouldn’t be enough to separate his political actions from his business. It’s not as if Trump would suddenly become unaware of how his actions would affect hotels, apartment buildings, and other fixed assets just because he wasn’t looking at the monthly bills.

 

Some of Mr. Trump’s lawyers have called the plan a “blind trust,” which past Presidents have used to protect their assets from the appearance of conflicts-of-interest. … By law blind trusts are overseen by an independent manager, not family members.

 

And then, once his assets had been converted into capital, Trump would still need to place that amount in a blind trust so that he wasn’t motivated to profit from control of the government.

 

Mr. Trump’s best option is to liquidate his stake in the company. Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, ethics lawyers for George W. Bush and President Obama, respectively, have laid out a plan, which involves a leveraged buyout or an initial public offering.

 

The political damage to a new Administration could be extensive. If Mr. Trump doesn’t liquidate, he will be accused of a pecuniary motive any time he takes a policy position. For example, the House and Senate are eager to consider tax reform—and one sticking point will be the treatment of real estate, which will be of great interest to the Trump family business. Ditto for repealing the Dodd-Frank financial law, interest rates and so much more.

 

J'accuse. Yes. Exactly. Trump does have intense personal interest in these issues. So do the millionaires and billionaires who either populate Congress or fund those who do.

 

But Trump’s interest goes beyond simply cutting his own tax bill. As Paul Krugman notes, the damage done to the treasury itself is a relatively minor portion of the potential damage.

 

We're about to enter, or may already have entered, an era of corrupt governance unprecedented in U.S. history. What does it mean? 1/

 

Important to realize that the money stolen by the first family is a minor issue; $10 billion, say, skimmed off the top is rounding error 2/

The more important issue is that to generate those billions, Trump could distort foreign policy, domestic policy, military policy in ways that generate far greater impact on the nation than simply padding his bottom line. Trump owes vast amounts of money to foreign banks and foreign investors. What if he chose to settle those accounts by either using the military to act as a mercenary force—or settle those accounts by using the military to act as the world’s largest instrument of extortion.

 

Donald Trump’s business and Donald Trump’s role as president-elect are intrinsically incompatible, and no trust can be blind enough to make them fit.

 

UPDATE

 

In his conversation with the New York Times on Tuesday afternoon, Trump expressed his surprise that there were no rules requiring that he step away from his business.

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