As news outlets continue to map out President Donald Trump's potential conflicts of interest, a new poll reveals that more than half of U.S. voters believe he's done something illegal or unethical by continuing to retain ownership of his business empire.
As David Cole, American Civil Liberties Union legal director explained this week,
despite his widespread private holdings in commercial real estate, condominiums, hotels, and golf courses here and around the world, [Trump] has refused to follow the lead of his predecessors by selling his assets and placing the proceeds in a blind trust. Instead, he has transferred management, but not ownership, of the Trump Organization. He retains his ownership in full. And he has assigned operational responsibility not to an independent arm's-length trustee, but to his sons, Eric and Donald Jr.
That arrangement, which Office of Government Ethics director Walter M. Schaub Jr. criticized as "meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective," apparently doesn't sit well with a majority of voters.
Asked about the potential conflicts of interests posed by his role as president and his personal finances, 28 percent of registered voters say Trump has done something illegal. Twenty-five percent say he's done something unethical but not illegal. Forty-two percent say he's done nothing wrong, and six percent say they're unsure, according to the McClatchy-Marist Poll.
The survey also shows that 41 percent of voters approve of the job he's done as president; 49 percent disapprove. "Those numbers are weaker than other presidents at comparable time in their presidencies, according to national surveys," Anita Kumar writes at McClatchy. She also quotes Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in New York, as saying: "This is unusual for a candidate that upon becoming president he is not given a honeymoon."
Further documenting Americans' dim view of Trump's short time in the White House is an NBC News/SurveyMonkey poll released Wednesday which finds 43 percent of Americans approve of the job Trump is doing compared to 54 percent who disapprove.
Yet Trump himself appears to not have concerns over the entanglements, having "largely shown himself to be indifferent to critics of his conflicts, including the legal scholars and former White House ethics lawyers who filed a lawsuit on January 22nd alleging that taking payments from foreign government entities at his hotels and other properties violates the Constitution," as Sheelah Kolhatkar wrote last week at The New Yorker.
Further, Kolhatkar continued, "there is no indication that the Trump Organization's internal or external ethics officers will be sharing their activities with the government or the public. In other words, Americans will continue to be uninformed as to Trump's business conflicts, except when he decides to broadcast them on Twitter."
The McClatchy-Marist Poll was conducted Feb. 15 to 19, and for those questions targeting 865 registered voters, has a margin of error of ± 3.3 percentage points.