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Trump turns a blind eye on businesses’ conflicts of interest
January 6, 2017
As president-elect Donald Trump begins his ascension towards presidency, numerous severe controversies have risen about his campaign, his companies, his family, and even Trump himself. However, one specific controversy is worrying economists and politicians around the world: his control over his businesses.
Although Trump has repeatedly claimed that he has completely released his control over his complex plethora of companies, business, and land, many experts have speculated that this is not true. Nepotism issues with his children have already surfaced as well as international relationships that now fall into the gray area of his regulations as president-elect.
Diplomats, Duetsche Bank and debt
The Dallas Editorial wrote, “This is no small issue. Think how easy would it be for someone who wants to win Trump’s favor to invest or lend money to Trump properties… Would U.S. policy be guided by what’s good for the country or what’s good for himself?”
Trump owes money to Duetsche Bank, the bank of Germany that deals with international financial services. Deutsche Bank is also currently involved in a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, in which it would pay $14 billion. Multiple news companies have spoken out, including BBC, Dallas News and CNBC, over the issue.
Because of how long the settlement has taken so far, it is likely that Trump would be in power when it is finished, and considering his personal ties and the large sum of money he owes to the bank, it is easy to see an unethical decision being made. Not only preexisting relations are causing concern, but new ones as well.
Dallas Editorial also said, “Foreign diplomats already have said that they will stay at his hotels in the hope of special treatment from the president.”
Over 100 foreign diplomats have said they would stay at Trump’s hotels for a chance to get closer to the president-elect or in the hopes of special treatment.
Diplomats are suddenly flocking to Trump hotels at an alarming rate and with alarming consequences down the road. Trump’s family owns 33 hotels in the United States, including seven hotel/condos. Trump has stated that he will be staying in his hotels before and during the presidency, particularly his hotel in Washington D.C. With over 30 different places where diplomats could put themselves in good graces with the President-elect, it is terrifying to think of foreign affairs for the next four years. As the soon-to-be leader of the American people, Trump should not be letting his personal life endanger or turn a biased page over American politics. With his name garishly plastered on them, and his enthusiastic assurance that he will be staying in said hotels, there is no doubt that Trump will not give up control over them, whether or not he claims he is.
Unfortunately, even more issues with foreign affairs relating to his businesses. To many sources, what he is doing by refusing to completely separate himself from his companies is actually illegal in the case of international business. The Emoluments Clause of the Constitution speaks of presidents with international economic relations, saying, “No person holding any office of profit or trust [may accept] any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, they specifically placed the Emoluments Clause in it to avoid situations like the Trump presidency, in which someone as powerful as the president could allow unethical decisions to be made because of their own personal foreign affairs. By continuing to make business with his foreign companies and properties, Trump is actually going against the Constitution and breaking the law once he becomes president. By definition, an emolument is any sort of profit, pay, salary or fee from that person’s employment. If Congress decides to call him out on this once he becomes president, what would happen in most cases is nearly immediate impeachment after a brief vote. However, because Republicans control the House and Senate, there is the chance that they would vote with a biased stance and keep him as president, despite breaking the law.
Blind trusts that aren’t so blind
The laws about emoluments are not the only ones being broken, however. According to BBC, “[To avoid conflict,] Trump promised to set up a blind trust controlled by his children.
A blind trust is a fund that has been set up with the express purpose of separating a person from knowledge of how their money is being invested. For Mr Trump, it would be impossible to set up a “blind trust” for a business conglomerate helmed by his own children, especially ones who have been playing an active role in his transition.
Since Lyndon B Johnson, all presidents with large businesses have used blind trusts effectively during their presidency. However, Trump wants to give his blind trust to his children, making it less of a blind trust and more of a simply-changing-the-names-on-some-papers-and-keeping-complete-control trust. Not only does that completely ensure the idea that he has not and will not give up control of his businesses, but it also shows that he is fine with breaking other laws to give the trust to his family. Most likely, if he were to do this, it would go to either Ivanka or Melania Trump. Melania is his wife, meaning the upcoming first-lady, which would only lead to more conflicts of interest. Ivanka is now worming her way into the government, which would only open up other conflicts with her and her husband’s roles in office.
Since her father’s election, Ivanka has been using herself to continue his control over his businesses. According to BBC, “Ivanka Trump has been involved with meetings and phone calls with world leaders. Her husband is trying to find a way around nepotism laws that prevent him from working in the White House. If Ms. Trump were running the company, her father – and potentially her husband – would have insider information about the government’s plans.”
Trump is doing everything in his power to put her in a powerful position over America, but in doing so, he’s only proving how little control he has actually lost. Ivanka is now able to use confidential government information to further her brand, which is strongly connected to her father’s, making them almost synonymous. Rather than giving up control of his businesses, he’s simply given Ivanka more power.
The Trumps cannot give up power
Senior Chris Gilleo said, “Yes, it’s [a problem]. Ivanka gaining any power she is not properly trained for could be a problem. She’s competent… [but the way] she rose in ranks could be due to her relation with Donald Trump.”
Even if Trump were to hand over all of his business to Ivanka, which seems to be a crude version of his plan, then he would still have control, and it would cause conflicts of interest with her in multiple ways. Ivanka is sitting in on government meetings and gaining confidential information that concerns the American people. By knowing these things, Ivanka will have a bonus when it comes to business, as she’ll know when major things could happen in politics or with the economy, which would let her prepare in advance. Doing this would gain the Trump name an even higher net worth, which would result in the money going straight back to Trump after his presidency.
It is arguable that Trump has relinquished some of his business in order to focus on and do better at his presidency, but it is simply not enough. As Trump continues to carry out foreign business deals that create personal conflicts of interest and act as though his family are a reliable way to keep him out of his businesses for a short while, he is proving that he will not release the powerful grip he has on his personal economics. That may be the best business move for him, and smart one, at that, but it is also a decision that puts his own money above that of the people he is supposed to protect and represent.
It cannot be said for certain yet, whether or not Trump will drastically and suddenly give off his businesses to blind trusts or stop his foreign affairs, but it is likely he will never do such a thing. For Trump, power and money are synonymous and giving up that power would be worse to him than the issues it may bring to his presidency.
Gilleo said, “[Trump] seems very reliant on economic power, so if he gave up even a part of his business… it would take away his control.”