ON TRUMP'S REMAINING TIES TO HIS FAMILY BUSINESSES
Before the current kerfuffle between the Trump administration and Nordstrom began over the Ivanka Trump clothing line, even before his actual ascension to the presidency, there had already been heated discussions about the President's ongoing connections to the family businesses.
There have been a number of attempts, in the past few weeks, to collect information about all of Trump’s business interests in one place. Wired gathered them all in one “astoundingly complex visualization.” Time plotted them on a world map. CNN catalogued just those that intersect with Russia or Russian companies.
Initially, the president had vowed not to enter into any new foreign deals, and to appoint an ethics adviser who would have to approve new domestic deals. (The head of the Office of Government Ethics called these moves “meaningless.”)
Later, despite Trump’s resignation from positions at the Trump Organization, and filing paperwork which turns the companies over to his children, a number of documents published by nonprofit ProPublica revealed ongoing, direct ties between the President and his businesses. Though the purpose of a trust is to create a firewall against potential conflicts of interest, Trump himself remains the sole beneficiary of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust, which contains a mix of profits from stock sales, intellectual property tied with the Trump brand and properties like the Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) has filed a lawsuit against the President, alleging that he is in violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. CREW cites Trump’s continuing ownership of properties like New York’s Trump Tower, and business ventures in a variety of foreign countries, as examples of violations.
The group plans to use the lawsuit to press for the release of Trump’s tax returns. Trump has called the lawsuit “totally without merit.” In Quartz, CATO Senior Fellow Walter Olson argues the lawsuit will fail because CREW must prove it suffered “some sort of direct, concrete and particular injury” not experienced by other Americans in order to sue the president.
The question remains: Are these ongoing ties to his businesses troubling because of the appearance of a conflict of interest? Or are they genuinely affecting his decision-making as president? There are some indications that it could be the latter, but so far, no hard evidence.
Many noted that countries where the Trump Organization is active were left out of the President’s recent “travel ban” executive order.
The Atlantic points out that, when members of Trump’s family travel and stay at Trump Organization properties, the taxpayers end up funding security and staff for the trip. (A recent Eric Trump visit to Uruguay cost the American people about $97,000.)
The Department of Defense is apparently looking into renting space at Trump Tower so that it can keep vital national security procedures close to the President when he’s staying there.
Recent FEC filings confirm that Trump’s presidential campaign paid $12.8 million to his own companies.
Talk of impeachment, largely in response to these alleged violations, has already started in some corners. A survey from the left-leaning but highly regarded Public Policy Polling found that 40% of Americans “support” impeachment. Over 600,000 Americans have signed a petition at ImpeachDonaldTrumpNow.org. Former White House Counsel John Dean, who served under Richard Nixon from 1970 to 1973, told The Atlantic that Trump already blows his former boss away in terms of “the level of corruption.”
When asked about the impeachment chatter by Breitbart News, press secretary Sean Spicer pointed to the “support that the president’s receiving for his policies throughout the country."