Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Carl Bernstein, whose reporting on the Watergate scandal prompted the resignation of former President Richard Nixon, has asserted that reporters must investigate President Donald Trump's potential conflicts of interest.
In a podcast interview with former President Barack Obama's political adviser David Axelrod that was recorded on Jan. 19 but released on Feb. 2, Bernstein suggested that Trump has a paper trail that could devastate his credibility among the American public.
"What we really need to look at right now are the conflicts of interest," Bernstein said, according to CNN.
The journalist suggested that Trump's potential business dealings in Russia merit special attention, given the president's controversial relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
"We have no idea what Trump's businesses, associations, loans are in greater Russia," Bernstein continued. "This is a big job for investigative reporting."
Bernstein added that these questions should also be pursued by GOP lawmakers "especially because it's going to come back to bite them."
In Bernstein's view, Trump had withheld his tax returns from the public because they would reveal his business career to be built on fraud.
"There is an established record that (Trump's) success is based on a con and on treating people badly and suing people and not meeting his obligations that he agreed to," Bernstein said.
The journalist concluded that if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had entered the Oval Office with the same conflicts of interest that Trump has, "there would be already a congressional investigation and it would lead to something horrible."
Bernstein has been vocally critical of both Trump's potential conflicts of interest and his temperament.
"If [Nixon] had a Twitter account it would not reflect this much paranoia," Bernstein tweeted out in November 2016.
Trump did not release his tax returns during the 2016 presidential campaign, citing the fact that he has been under an ongoing audit. The IRS has previously stated that an audit does not prohibit anyone from disclosing their returns to the public.
On Jan. 22, Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway asserted that the president would not release his returns because of public indifference.
"The White House response is that he's not going to release his tax returns," Conway told ABC News. "We litigated this all through the election. People didn't care. They voted for him."
Trump has also shifted ownership of his businesses to his sons instead of placing them into a blind trust. This prompted Professor Richard Painter of the University of Minnesota, who had served as former President George W. Bush's chief ethics lawyer, to mount a lawsuit against Trump for violating the Constitution's emoluments clause.
Painter has asserted that the arrangement will allow Trump to make decisions in the White House that benefit his own personal wealth instead of the American people.
"If Obama had tried that, we would have impeached him in two weeks," Painter told the Minnesota Star Tribune.