Editorial: Put Trump businesses in blind trust
Throughout the recent presidential campaign, Donald Trump and others raised legitimate concerns about the connections between Hillary Clinton’s State Department and the family foundation founded by her husband. As president-elect, Trump should be consistent and address his own conflicts of interest.
To put it simply, the president of the United States can’t also be in any
way involved in the operations of a giant private enterprise.
Trump must put his considerable personal holdings in a blind trust, as did presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan before him. President Barack Obama had only minimal personal assets when he took office, so the issue was moot.
Trump will be perhaps the wealthiest president ever, though he has never disclosed his exact worth. He heads a worldwide business empire focused primarily on real estate.
The president-elect has said he will turn over management of his businesses to his adult children. That arrangement falls short of a blind trust, particularly if the Trumps are in anyway involved as White House advisors or aides. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is currently helping manage his transition team (he’ll need a blind trust, too).
A truly blind trust means that Trump would have no knowledge of corporate Trump activities, and no involvement in the decision making. No emails. No dinner conversations. No phone calls.
This is vital because the potential for conflict is so enormous.
As a real estate development company, the Trump Organization enterprise will be seeking tax breaks and credits at every level of government.
The Labor Department Trump will oversee as president will also be mediating labor disputes between workers and his companies.
Treasury will be weighing tax disputes brought by Trump companies.
And since Trump now does business overseas, his State Department may find itself in delicate situations with countries where the new president has investments.
The list of potential conflicts goes on.
And even a blind trust won’t eliminate the appearance of favoritism. As president, Trump will know exactly how his policies and appointments will impact his investments, even if he no longer is aware of the day-to-day operations.
It is rare for a president to move directly from private business to the White House. Had he won four years ago, venture capitalist Mitt Romney would have been in the same position.
With his personal investments, as with everything else, Trump must err solidly on the side of transparency. He must know his myriad critics will be looking for any whiff of scandal.
We asked during the campaign for then-candidate Trump to release his tax returns. It is essential he do so now. Before it can be determined if Trump is either intentionally or inadvertently boosting his private interests with his policies, it must be known what he’s actually holding and with whom he’s doing business.
Likewise, before he takes office, Trump should settle the lawsuit involving Trump University. Whether or not he thinks he’s being wrongly accused, the presidency demands some personal sacrifice. Pay up and avoid the unseemly spectacle of a sitting president testifying in a civil trial. It’s a distraction he can’t afford.
America is on new ground with a billionaire as president. Trump must do all he can to assure the public that he will not use his office to further enrich himself.