Politics

Trump: A 'President Can't Have A Conflict Of Interest'

| by Robert Fowler

President-elect Donald Trump dismissed concerns that his role as commander-in-chief will result in possible conflicts of interest with his business empire, asserting that presidents are afforded a lot of legal leeway in how they conduct their affairs.

On Nov. 23, Trump addressed the controversy over his businesses potentially merging with his presidential decision-making during an interview with The New York Times.

"As far as the, you know, potential conflict of interests, though, I mean I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can't have a conflict of interest," Trump said.

This is more or less true; presidents and vice presidents are not held to the same rules placed on officials by the Office of Government Ethics, according to The Atlantic.

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The business mogul added that he believed presidents are largely exempt from conflict of interest laws because "everything a president does in some ways is like a conflict of interest."

Instead of placing his company into a blind trust, the president-elect has opted to transfer the Trump Organization over to his three eldest children, asserting that he will not discuss business affairs with them while he serves in the White House.

Trump stated that it would be very hard for him to liquidate his assets and place them into a proper blind trust because "I have real estate all over the world… selling real estate isn't like selling stock."

The president-elect concluded that his situation was unprecedented and that he would like to have it both ways.

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"In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly," Trump said. "There's never been a case like this."

Since winning election on Nov. 8, observers have noted that a number of potential conflicts of interest are already cropping up for the president-elect.

There is the newly opened Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., for instance. Not only is the property's lease held by the General Services Administration that Trump will be staffing, but it has already been host to a number of foreign diplomats trying to curry favor with the president-elect.

During his presidential campaign, Trump registered eight new companies in Saudi Arabia, establishing new business projects in the Middle Eastern country that he will have to work with as commander-in-chief.

There has also been controversy over Trump continuing to fraternize with his business partners. On Nov. 19, the president-elect met with three Indian real-estate executives to celebrate his election. Trump characterized the meeting as personal, but the three executives are currently helping build a Trump-branded apartment complex in Mumbai.

On Nov. 22, a CNN/ORC poll found that 59 percent of Americans are uncomfortable with President-elect Trump's plan to merely transfer his company over to his children, CNN Money reports.

Only 41 percent of self-identified Independents and 8 percent of self-identified Democrats believe that the arrangement goes far enough in avoiding conflicts of interest. 71 percent of self-identifying Republicans believed that the plan was satisfactory.

On Nov. 23, two Democratic lawmakers sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office (GAO) requesting a review of the Trump White House transition process to determine if there have been potential conflicts of interest, Politico reports.

In their letter, Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland urged the GAO to investigate the president-elect's business holdings in foreign countries such as China, Libya, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

"At this point, it is not clear if the line between Mr. Trump's presidency and his business ventures is blurred — or entirely nonexistent," Warren and Cummings wrote.

Sources: The Atlantic, CNN MoneyThe New York TimesPolitico / Photo Credit: Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times

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