A Donald Trump presidency will be unprecedented and one of the most improbable in American history.
Not only is he the first president to never have held any kind government of military office, he runs a massive real-estate and investment empire that opens a Pandora’s Box of conflicts of interest the moment he is inaugurated on Jan. 20, 2017.
The President-elect has already given a hint as to how he might use the presidency to his personal financial advantage.
During his campaign, Trump often funneled money to his own businesses. According Federal Election Commission filings, Trump spent about $1 million of his campaign’s funds on products and services from business he owns, including Mar-a-Lago, his Palm Beach club, his fleet of private jets, the Trump International Golf Club, and Trump Tower.
In fact, according to the Associated Press, Trump’s campaign made payments amounting to $6 million that went to the Trump Organization.
While the assumption may be that while Trump is in the Oval Office the conflict-of-interest issue will only grow further, that might not be the case.
According to Vox, unlike other executive branch officials, the President of the United States is exempt from the rules of conflict of interest on the grounds that “the president’s activities necessarily impact essentially all areas of the economy. And there is no rule whatsoever mandating that the president structure his personal finances to mitigate conflicts of interest.”
The norm in such cases is for the incoming president to voluntarily place their assets in a blind trust. For example, “If they have an investment portfolio — stocks and bonds and such — that is placed under professional management with special terms, Vox explains. The manager is under a fiduciary responsibility to manage investments in the president’s best interests, but the president is not allowed to see what the trustees are investing in.”
Trump has said that he would hand over his businesses to his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr.
“We’re not going to be involved in government,” Trump Jr. assured George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America.” “[My father] wants nothing to do with [the company]. He wants to fix this country.”
But at the same time Trump Jr., Eric, and Ivanka have been named as members of the transition team.
According to Karl Sandstrom, the former chairman of the FEC, that is in no way a blind trust
“You don’t still have access to the decision being made,” he told The Guardian.
And there are huge ethical problems headed Trump’s way.
One example would be the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline, which has been at the center of a major controversy because it would ravage land sacred to Native American communities.
Trump has promised to green light the construction of this pipeline within his first 100 days as president.
What he hasn’t disclosed is that he has holdings in Energy Transfer Partners, which is the company building the pipeline and is likely to profit heavily from the completion of the pipeline.
Trump has ignored decades-old precedent throughout his campaign by refusing to release his tax returns and breaking every political rule in the book.
Despite this fact, he stands as the President-elect of the United States.
Republicans have largely chosen to overlook his baggage in favor of defeating the Democrats.
Whatever is in store ahead, it’s definitely bound to be interesting.
Banner Photo: Reuters