With Trump’s deep business ties to foreign governments and businesses, he will be in violation of the Constitution’s rules against bribery on his first day in office. But federal conflict-of-interest rules contain a glaring loophole exempting the president and vice president from many restrictions. Sen. Warren’s new bill (full text appears below this notice) would make it clear that Trump has to follow the rules – or else.
A president using his power to enrich himself while indebted to foreign governments is not normal, and we cannot let Washington Democrats and the corporate media pretend it is. We need to get behind leaders like Sen. Warren and make it clear that Donald Trump is putting America’s safety and security at risk in order to line his own pockets.
Sign the petition from CREDO and Daily Kos: Make Trump disclose and divest.
The very first act of the new Republican Congress was an attempt to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics. But under massive public pressure, Republicans changed course . The whole episode was evidence that Trump Republicans are desperate to make corruption easier – and extremely vulnerable to public outrage on this exact issue.
Every modern president has voluntarily chosen to follow conflict-of-interest rules – until now. Even though those rules exempt the president and vice president, past leaders of both parties have divested their financial interests or placed them in a blind trust. Trump merely intends to turn over day-to-day operations to his two sons while maintaining a financial stake in his business, which a bipartisan group of ethicists and good government groups has condemned.
Trump’s refusal to disclose and divest shows that he is intent on enriching himself and his Wall Street friends at the expense of Americans who struggle to make ends meet. This is the type of cronyism and corruption that conflict-of-interest rules are designed to prevent. Worse, his deep business ties to global financiers and the likes of China, Russia, Libya and Turkey put us all at risk. Trump has every incentive to make foreign policy decisions that benefit himself while putting American lives at risk.
Sen. Warren’s new bill tackles Trump’s potential corruption on both fronts. It would close the loophole allowing the president, vice president and their families to avoid conflict-of-interest rules – forcing Trump to disclose and fully divest his financial interests. It also emphasizes that the anti-bribery “emoluments clause” of the Constitution applies directly to situations like this, where the president’s wealth is dependent upon pleasing foreign dictators. This bill makes it absolutely clear that Trump’s business ties put America at risk, so we need to get behind it in a big way.
Stand with Sen. Warren: Make Trump disclose and divest.
We know that Donald Trump’s rhetoric about “draining the swamp” was just one more lie from a racist authoritarian desperate to gain power. As notedby Sen. Warren:
“Trump is not ‘draining the swamp.’ Nope, he’s inviting the biggest, ugliest swamp monsters in the front door, and he’s turning them loose on our government and our economy.”But we need to make sure the gullible traditional corporate media outlets – and any struggling Americans who wanted to believe that someone would end Wall Street’s stranglehold on our democracy – realize the truth.
Let’s insist that Democrats resist Trump’s un-American agenda at every turn, put the spotlight on the way he is using government to enrich himself and his well-heeled friends and make sure Trump’s greed doesn't put our security and safety at risk.
Stand with Sen. Warren: Make Trump disclose and divest.
Thank you for speaking out,
Murshed Zaheed, Political Director
CREDO Action from Working Assets
Paid for by CREDO
Daily Kos, PO Box 70036, Oakland, CA, 94612.
Senate Democrats to Introduce Bill to Require President and Vice President to Fully Divest Personal Financial Conflicts of Interest
As Chairman and President of the Trump Organization, President-elect Donald J. Trump heads a “sprawling” international business network with “deep ties” to global financiers and foreign officials from countries around the globe, including China, Libya, and Turkey.1 Because of these ties, he will take office with “more potential business and financial conflicts of interest than any other president in U.S. history.”2
Unless he takes steps to address these conflicts, President-elect Trump will be in violation of the Constitution on “Day One” of his presidency.3 Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution prohibits officeholders, including the President,4 from “accept[ing] any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, price, or foreign state.” Experts have concluded that “[c]orporations owned or controlled by a foreign government are presumptively foreign states under the Emoluments Clause.”5
Although the president and vice president are now exempt from many federal financial conflict of interest rules, the Office of Government Ethics has concluded that “the President and the Vice President should conduct themselves as if they were so bound” by them,6 and every president in the last 40 years has voluntarily complied. Yet President-elect Trump has resisted taking these steps, even boasting that “the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”7 He has announced no plans to divest from his businesses, announcing instead that his sons will manage the Trump Organization during his presidency.8
For decades, U.S. presidents have addressed concerns regarding foreign and domestic conflicts of interest by divesting their financial interests and placing them in a true blind trust or the equivalent. The bill codifies this longstanding practice and implements the Emoluments Clause by:
Requiring the President, Vice President, their spouses, and minor or dependent children
to divest all interests that create financial conflicts of interest by selling these assets and
placing the proceeds in a true blind trust. The trust will be managed by an independent
trustee who will oversee the sale of assets and place the proceeds in conflicts-free
Adopting a sense of the Congress that the President’s violation of financial conflicts of
interest laws or the ethics requirements that apply to executive branch employees
constitute a high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S.
Prohibiting Presidential appointees from participating in matters that directly involve the
financial interests of the President, the President’s spouse, or businesses controlled by the
President or the President’s spouse.
2 Timothy L. O’Brien, The Conflicts-on-Interest President, Bloomberg (November 11, 2016) (online at https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2016-11-11/the-conflicts-of-interest-president)
3 Heidi M. Przybyla, Trump’s foreign deals risk Constitution clash, USA Today (December 9, 2016) (online at http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2016/12/08/trump-foreign-deals-risk-constitution-clash/95074030/).
4 See e.g., Josh Gerstein, New stash of legal opinions detail hurdles for Trump on emoluments ban, Politico (December 1, 2016) (online at http://www.politico.com/blogs/under-the-radar/2016/11/a-foreign-emoluments- clause-library-232027).
5 Memorandum Opinion for the Counsel to the President, Applicability of the Emoluments Clause and the Foreign Gifts and Decorations Act to the President’s Receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize (December 7, 2009) (online at https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/olc/opinions/2009/12/31/emoluments-nobel-peace.pdf); see also Eric Lipton and Susanne Craig, “Donald Trump’s Far-Flung Holdings Raise Potential for Conflicts of Interest,” New York Times (Nov. 14, 2016) (online at http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/15/us/politics/donald-trump-holdings- conflict-of-interest.html).
6 Office of Government Ethics, Letter to a Deputy DAEO dated October 20, 1983 (online at https://www.oge.gov/web/oge.nsf/Legal%20Advisories/01F8E09232041FD185257E96005FBBE8/$FILE/64ed9ad9 bd294b45a88ac8729a97968a3.pdf?open).
7 The New York Times, “Donald Trump’s New York Times Interview: Full Transcript,” The New York Times (November 23, 2016) (online at: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/trump-new-york-times-interview- transcript.html).
8 Elisa Viebeck, Trump says he will hand over control of businesses to sons before inauguration, Washington Post (December 12, 2016) (online at https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/powerpost/wp/2016/12/12/trump-postpones- announcement-on-how-he-will-avoid-conflicts-of-interests/?utm_term=.e146cf67fa9c).