Democratic Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland is working to pass a resolution that would force President-elect Donald Trump to hand over control of his vast, international business interests to a blind trust before he takes office.
“The American public has a right to know that the President of the United States is acting in their best interest, and not because he or she has received some benefit or gift from a foreign government like Russia or China or any other foreign entity,” Cardin said according to USA Today. “They need to know that the President of the United States is making decisions about potential trade agreements, sending troops into war, and where we spend America’s great resources based on what is in the public interest and not because it would advance the President’s private pecuniary interests."
Cardin continued: "Let me be clear, as the gravity of this issue demands absolute clarity: the financial arrangement described by Mr. Trump and his lawyers is not a blind trust. It just isn’t. And we cannot allow Mr. Trump or his lawyers to trick us or the American people into thinking that it is just because they use that term. A true blind trust, including the ones established by past presidents, is an arrangement where the official has no control over, will receive no communications about, and will have no knowledge of the identity of the specific assets held in the trust, and the trust’s manager operates independently of the owner.”
Trump has said he would hand over control of his businesses to his sons, Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr. But that arrangement, which hasn't been finalized, has been criticized for being open to Trump's intervention while he serves as president, which could create a conflict of interest.
However, Trump might not even be under any legal obligation to relinquish control of his business interests, according to David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey, constitutional law attorneys who worked in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.
“That President-elect Donald Trump put his business holdings in a 'blind trust' to avoid potential conflicts of interest are unrealistic and unfair,” they argued in an op-ed in in the Washington Post. “Such a trust would not eliminate the virtual certainty that actions Trump takes as president will affect his personal wealth, for good or ill. The step is not required by law. And presidents who have chosen to use this device held very different assets than Trump’s. He can keep his holdings and adopt a reasonable system to avoid conflicts and reassure the American people that the Trump administration is acting ethically.”