Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts has introduced legislation that would force sitting presidents and vice presidents to divest themselves of any financial conflicts of interests or be subject to congressional impeachment. The bill is a pointed measure against President-elect Donald Trump and his controversial refusal to place his business empire into a blind trust.
On Jan. 9, Warren took to the Senate floor to introduce The Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017. Her legislation has been co-sponsored by Democratic Sens. Chris Coons of Delaware, Jack Reed of Rhode Island and Cory Booker of New Jersey, the International Business Times reports.
"The American people deserve to know that the president of the United States is working to do what's best for the country -- not using his office to do what's best for himself and his businesses," Warren said in a statement.
Trump has pledged to shift ownership of his businesses to his two eldest sons, who have been involved in his White House transition team.
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Transferring financial interests to family members does not constitute creating a blind trust. Venture capitalist David Lovenheim explained to the Rochester Business Journal that Trump should "place his ownership shares of his multiple businesses into a revocable trust, specifying that it may be revoked only after he no longer holds any public office."
Lovenheim added that for the arrangement to truly be a blind trust, "an independent trustee should be named who would conduct all dealings and communications with his children, who would retain their management positions in the businesses but would be precluded for the duration of Trump's term from speaking or communicating with him about any business matter."
In Nov. 2016, Trump dismissed concerns that his business interests, the depths of which could only be revealed by a disclosure of his tax returns, could conflict with his presidential duties.
"As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can't have a conflict of interest," Trump told The New York Times.
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Warren's bill would change that. Her legislation would designate a financial conflict of interest for a sitting president as a high crime or misdemeanor, which could prompt impeachment hearings from Congress if left unanswered, The Daily Caller reports.
"The only way for President-elect Trump to truly eliminate conflicts of interest is to divest his financial interests by placing them in a blind trust," Warren added. "This has been the standard for previous presidents, and our bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same."
Warren's bill will face an uphill battle for passage. While it has drawn widespread support from Democratic lawmakers, the vast majority of GOP lawmakers have indicated that they are against the legislation.