Jan. 10, 2017 – Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen
President-elect Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest will be inescapable, engulfing and consequential unless he sells off the family business. As long as he does not, his business interests will unavoidably influence his policymaking, affecting matters from consumer protection to bankruptcy law, labor rights to tax policy, as well as foreign policy. We will witness the first for-profit president.
Americans deserve a president who works for them, without regard to how policy will affect the president’s own bottom line.
There is no cure to the conflicts except for selling the businesses. Appointing an independent monitor – even if the monitor were a Mother Teresa-like figure – would not solve the problem. Nor would a commitment not to do any new deals, whatever that means; nor the creation of any so-called “firewalls;” nor even a commitment that President Trump will not speak to his sons managing the business for the duration of the presidency. That’s because Trump knows what he owns, and he knows how policy choices will affect his business. The corrupting conflicts are inescapable, irrespective of Trump’s good or bad intent, and irrespective of his contact with those running the business, as long as he owns the business.
Similarly, as long as the business remains a going concern, people, companies and foreign governments will patronize Trump hotels, apartments, golf courses and other Trump-branded services, and offer the businesses special arrangements, including many that may be perfectly legal, as a way to curry favor with the president. This problem, too, is inescapable so long as Trump maintains his ownership interests.