Of all the unexploded political ordnance laying in front of Donald J. Trump as he prepares to become president, one of them poses a seriously grave threat.
It’s this issue of divestiture … or Trump’s stubborn refusal to do what he should. That would be to divest himself fully of the enormous fortune he has acquired around the world.
He has chosen instead to hand all business operations over to his eldest son. Don Jr. is going to handle all the business dealings and Dad won’t have anything to do with it. None whatsoever.
That’s good enough for the president-elect to clear him of any potential conflicts of interest. Or so he says.
I am afraid it likely won’t provide nearly enough separation.
Indeed, this is just yet another demonstration of the non-traditional approach that Trump is taking toward his transition from fully private billionaire business executive to fully public leader of the free world/head of state and government/commander in chief.
The situation facing Trump is written in Article II of the U.S. Constitution. It’s called the “emoluments clause,” which has become common knowledge now among many Americans who before this election had never even heard of it.
The emoluments clause is founding father-speak that translates to “anti-bribery.” It prohibits a president from taking money from a foreign government, the acceptance of which opens the president up to being compromised as he conducts the affairs of state.
Trump is facing tremendous exposure, say, if Don Jr. consummates a business deal with a foreign government that deposits a few billion dollars into an account that has Daddy Donald’s name on the letterhead. The president-elect believes simply allowing his son do the transaction clears him of any suspicion. Wrong!
Divestiture of one’s assets is not a novel concept. My goodness, Trump’s team is going to make incredible sacrifice serving him and the government he will run. It is a reasonable expectation for the president himself to separate himself completely from his business holdings.
Short of complete divestiture, a much better option than the one Trump has chosen would be to put his holdings into a blind trust, to be operated and administered by someone with no ties at all either to the president-elect or his family.
The next president is playing a dangerous game of chicken with those who are waiting for a big mistake to occur.