From the early days of the 2016 primary fight for the Republican presidential nomination, we made our opposition to
One specific area of concern centers on potential conflicts of interest between Trump’s business investments and his job as president. This isn’t hypothetical — problems have already emerged. A week after the election, the president-elect’s new Trump International Hotel, just four blocks from the
The conflicts also emerge more subtly. Before the election, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who has threatened to cool his nation's long relationship with the U.S. for closer ties with China, appointed businessman Jose Antonio as his special trade envoy to Washington. Antonio just happens to be a Trump business partner, building a $150-million, 57-story Trump Tower apartment complex in Manila — with more projects on the drawing board. Both countries now have cause to wonder where either man's loyalties lie.
So Trump hasn't even been sworn in yet, and already the conflicts are accumulating.
Federal ethics laws do not require the president to adhere to the same standards as his administrative appointees, so Trump can continue to run his business empire from the Oval Office without violating those statutes. Yet that is not what Americans voted for him to do — they elected him to run the government. And while he might be free of the ethics laws, thanks to an exemption Congress ought to consider removing, Trump is not free of the Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” which says the president cannot “without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” Some scholars argue that foreign governments sending business to Trump’s properties would violate that clause, which could create a constitutional showdown. At the very least, it creates a “pay to play” perception — an accusation Trump lodged against
Trump is due the courtesy of the nation's ears, which will be tuned to whatever announcement he ultimately makes about his business conundrum. But skepticism is warranted. If Trump fails to adequately separate himself from his financial affairs, even his fellow Republican supporters in Congress must hold him accountable. Trump sought this job, and while he has made a show of breaking with traditions, he cannot break faith with the American people.
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