As Trump's Conflicts of Interest Pile Up, Dems Roll Out Legislative Solution
Americans "deserve to know that the [president] is working to do what's best for the country—not using his office to do what's best for himself"
Senate Democrats are gearing up to introduce legislation that would force President-elect Donald Trump to divest from any financial conflicts of interest and place his assets into a blind trust—just as Trump appears to be blurring the line between his personal life and public office more than ever.
The bill would also consider any ethics violation cause for impeachment, The Hill reported.
Earlier this week, Trump postponed a press conference scheduled for Thursday that would have ostensibly clarified how his companies would run while he was in the White House, a move that prompted widespread criticism for a president-elect with historic conflicts of interest.
A day after announcing that his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, would take over his businesses, Trump allowed his children to sit in on what the Washington Post describes as "one of his biggest policy meetings yet, attended by the country's top tech-industry elites and Trump Cabinet nominees."
The Post's Drew Harwell writes:
The episode bolstered a growing confusion over how Trump would separate his complex web of business interests from his job in the Oval Office, a central focus for many who have worried that Trump's entanglements could steer his policy and presidency.
Top Democrats, as well as former ethics advisers to both major parties, say they intend to target this vulnerability for Trump in the march to his inauguration and beyond.
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Ben Cardin (Md.), Chris Coons (Del.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), and Jeff Merkley (Ore.) said Thursday they would introduce legislation that would require Trump to "disclose and divest" financial assets that pose conflicts of interest, amid fears that he would use his new powers to benefit his family's corporate empire.
"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," Warren said.
Lisa Gilbert, director of government accountability group Public Citizen's Congress Watch Division, said Thursday, "If the U.S. Senate is looking for legislation to debate and pass swiftly, this Warren bill should be at the very front of the line. This is simple, Donald Trump must remove himself from ownership of his businesses via divestment. Only then can he truly avoid conflicts and bias towards his long time financial interests."
Trump tweeted that in addition to handing the reins over to his sons, "no new deals" would be made while he was in office.
However, as Harwell notes:
[T]hose stipulations may not solve the core problem. If Trump gives his children corporate management responsibilities but still partially owns the businesses, he will have a financial stake that could influence his presidential decision-making, former White House ethics advisers said.
Business experts also wonder how Trump could promise "no new deals" for a business that has depended on routine dealmaking—both in large measure, such as signing new real estate partnerships or sealing branding agreements, as well as everyday deals, including hiring employees and refinancing debts.
The upcoming bill would also block presidential appointees from taking part in matters that are directly linked to Trump's financial interests or business that are controlled by the family.
"President-elect Trump's financial entanglements are unprecedented in American history, and the American people are still waiting to hear what steps he will take before January 20th to guard against conflicts of interest and corruption in his administration," Durbin said.
The bill comes just after 23 senators sent a letter to Trump warning that his business ties "have the potential for serious conflicts between the national interest and your personal financial interests."
Trump responded to recent reports by tweeting, "The media tries so hard to make my move to the White House, as it pertains to my business, so complex—when actually it isn't!"