Many people have voiced concerns about Trump’s conflicts of interest when it comes to his various business holdings and his future duties as president of the United States. As a man who at least claims to be a billionaire, and who has investments and properties around the world, many wonder how he will be able to make any decision at all that won’t somehow affect his own financial interests.
A Vague Suggestion from Reince Priebus
As reported by CNN, Trump’s incoming Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, suggested in an interview that the White House counsel will ensure that no such conflicts of interest occur. But precisely how this will be accomplished – when virtually every decision any president makes impacts the business community – is not entirely clear.
It is particularly difficult to understand with Donald Trump, who is by far the wealthiest person to ever become president of the United States. While most of our recent presidents have been wealthy – by the standards of the average American – none have had the kind of wealth Donald Trump seems to possess.
The idea that a president might make executive decisions based entirely on his or her self-interest is not the only reason for having in place measures that help to avoid conflicts of interest while in office. Even aside from making actual actions or decisions that might represent impropriety, most incoming presidents want to avoid even the appearance of such conflicts.
Why This Should Matter to Donald Trump
Conflicts of interest have normally been avoided by incoming presidents through the use of blind trusts that control and manage any financial holdings or businesses they might have. Of course, this doesn’t absolutely prevent a conflict, since any new president would know what he or she owned prior to becoming president.
Still, it seems better than doing nothing. It’s also important to note that such blind trusts are usually entrusted to someone the incoming president doesn’t have daily contact with. Otherwise, the trust wouldn’t seem all that blind. However, Donald Trump is using a very different approach.
Different Approach Used by Trump
Conflicts of interest will be addressed, as Reince Priebus suggested today, in a very different way by the Trump administration than is traditional. This new approach by Trump is raising major red flags among both Democrats and some Republicans. The fact he wants a security clearance for his son-in-law Jared Kushner doesn’t help.
According to the Associated Press, Trump is apparently simply placing his own children in charge of his various businesses. But some question whether this represents the kind of wall of separation between presidential and business interests that the public have come to expect from a new president.
Is it really believable that during conversations over dinner or while watching a movie, someone in the Trump family won’t bring up – in Donald Trump’s presence – his golf courses, hotels or various other investments? Having firsthand knowledge on a regular basis about these businesses could, in theory, provide the potential for Trump conflicts of interest while in the White House.
The suggestion by Reince Priebus that somehow the new White House counsel will be able to prevent such conversations and exchange of information regarding Donald Trump’s businesses assumes that every time Donald Trump wants to have a conversation with someone in his family, he’ll check with his lawyer first.
For the sake of his own presidency, and the peace of mind of most Americans, it would be far better for Donald Trump to put his manifold business interests in a blind trust and to have nothing whatsoever to do with his businesses for the duration of his presidency. Otherwise, Trump’s conflicts of interest would seem to be almost inevitable.
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