WASHINGTON, Jan. 9, 2017 – Today, Democratic members of Congress introduced the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017 in the United States Senate and House that would require the President and Vice President to disclose and divest any potential financial conflicts of interest. It also would require presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any specific matters involving the President’s financial conflicts of interest that come before their agencies.
Original co-sponsors of this legislation in the Senate included Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Al Franken (D-Minn.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.).
The original co-sponsors of this legislation in the House included Representatives Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), Richard Neal (D-Mass.), Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), Peter Welch (D-Vt.), and David Cicilline (D-R.I.).
The members have consistently asked for more transparency and accountability from President-elect Trump. In November, Democratic senators filed a Resolution stating the Senate’s expectation that President-elect Trump needs to decisively and transparently divest all of his business interests and holdings and completely sever his affiliation with the Trump Organization to avoid any actual or perceived conflicts with the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits the president from accepting gifts or benefits from foreign governmental actors.
“The American people deserve to know that the President of the United States is working to do what’s best for the country – not using his office to do what’s best for himself and his businesses,” said Senator Warren. “The only way for President-elect Trump to truly eliminate conflicts-of-interest is to divest his financial interests by placing them in a blind trust. This has been the standard for previous presidents, and our bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same.”
“The President of the United States has the power to affect how our tax dollars are spent, who the federal government does business with, and the integrity of America’s standing in a global economy,” said Representative Clark. “Every recent president in modern history has taken steps to ensure his financial interests do not conflict with the needs of the American people. The American people need to be able to trust that the President’s decisions are based on the best interests of families at home, and not the President’s financial interests.”
“The American people do not want the President encumbered by conflicts of interest that put him in violation of the Constitution or US law,” said Senator Cardin. “He shouldn’t want such conflicts either. Through legislation, resolutions, and advocacy we will continue to uphold the Constitution and current law and require the President-elect to take serious steps to give the American people the transparency they deserve.”
“Donald Trump’s unprecedented conflicts of interest mean his personal finances may come before the interests of the American public. According to outside ethics experts, the only way for the president-elect to resolve this issue is to sell his assets and put the profits in a blind trust managed by individuals with whom he has no contact-and that means not his children. If he refuses to do so, Congress should legally require it,” said Senator Feinstein.
“Our President-elect has significantly greater risk of business and financial conflicts of interest than any other president, yet has so far refused to follow the precedent set by previous presidents. To this day, President-elect Trump has refused to address his conflicts of interest,” said Senator Coons. “His continued delay in taking such steps is deeply troubling and calls into question his commitment to two fundamental responsibilities: running an open, transparent White House and fully severing his business ties before taking office. That’s why Congress must act promptly to pass this legislation that will require the President to divest their financial interests and place the proceeds in a blind trust. The presidency is a full-time job with only one client: the American people.”
“With Inauguration Day fast approaching, the American people are still waiting to hear what steps President-elect Trump will take to guard against conflicts of interest and corruption in his Administration,” said Senator Durbin. “I urge the President-elect to honor his promise to sever ties with his businesses while he is in office, letting the American people know with certainty that he is putting America first. If he fails to do so, we must address these unprecedented financial entanglements through legislation to protect U.S. interests.”
“It’s simple. There’s only one way for Donald Trump to end his conflicts of interest and reassure the American people that he is working for them and not for himself: Divest. Sell off the businesses and put the proceeds in a true blind trust,” said Senator Merkley.
“During his campaign, Donald Trump promised to stand with American workers and families, and to fight back against a rigged system, but actions speak a lot louder than words,” said Senator Murray. “This bill would be a strong step toward transparency and making sure any president, but particularly President-elect Trump, with his unprecedented business dealings and conflicts of interest, assures the public he or she is always acting in the best interest of the country and not merely working for himself or other millionaires, billionaires, and special interests.”
“With President-Elect Trump flouting bipartisan traditions of disclosure while engaging with foreign leaders at the highest level, it’s more important than ever to ensure that the Commander-in-Chief isn’t playing by a different set of rules,” said Senator Wyden. “The American people deserve the highest level of truth, honor and transparency from our president-elect.”
“Americans deserve to know whether or not President-Elect Trump will actually work for all Americans or only the wealthy and the well-connected,” said Senator Stabenow. “It is past time Trump take the necessary steps to be completely transparent and disclose his financial interests to the public.”
“America must come first, and an Administration with personal financial interests that compete against American interests is ripe for corruption,” said Senator Brown.
“President-elect Trump’s conflicts of interests are unprecedented and for the good of our nation he must divest himself from his businesses.” Senator Casey said. “The American people deserve to know that their president is acting in their best interest and not for the benefit of his business interests. Unless President-elect Trump divests, the American people will have no way of knowing where the Trump Organization ends and the Trump Administration begins.”
“Good governance requires transparency to ensure public officials aren’t working for themselves or other interests, but serving the American people,” said Senator Klobuchar. “This legislation builds on our efforts to set higher ethical standards and increase transparency in order to instill public trust and confidence.”
“The President-elect is entering office with unprecedented conflicts of interest,” Senator Bennet said. “Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has so far failed to take steps to minimize these conflicts. This is the least we can do to ensure that the incoming Administration will place the interests of the American people first.”
“The American people should be able to have faith in their elected leaders and trust that they are not holding office to enrich themselves, their families, or their friends,” said Senator Gillibrand. “It shouldn’t take an act of Congress for the President and Vice President to disclose and divest, but if they aren’t willing to do it on their own then we need stronger transparency laws. Americans deserve to know if the President and Vice President have financial conflicts of interest that could affect the decisions they make in office. I urge all of my colleagues to support this legislation and help restore the American people’s trust in their elected leaders.”
“The president must always put the interests of the American people ahead of his own personal financial interests, and that certainly shouldn’t change with Donald Trump,” said Senator Franken. “President-elect Trump has failed to take the necessary steps to disclose and eliminate his many potential conflicts of interest, and that could jeopardize our national interests from the moment he takes the Oath of Office on January 20. That’s beyond unacceptable, and it’s why we’ve introduced this bill to require the president-elect to uphold the long tradition of past presidents and fully divest his vast financial holdings. Americans deserve nothing less.”
“President-elect Trump is a walking, talking, tweeting conflict of interest who seems intent on rewriting the rules to make them work for himself,” said Senator Baldwin. “The American people need to be able to trust that the President of the United States is putting the interests of the people first, not his own. In order for President-elect Trump to earn this trust, he must fully divest his financial interests and put them away in a truly blind trust.”
“The President-elect should build a wall between himself and any potential conflicts of interests as high as anything he wants to build along the border. The President-elect must use a blind trust and cannot expect to rely on the blind faith of the American people to avoid these conflicts. There cannot be any actual or perceived conflict of interest with the Constitution, and the President-elect should provide the American people a concrete and full-throated commitment to the Emoulments Clause by eliminating any potential ethical concerns,” said Senator Markey.
“It is critical that the American people know whether President-elect Trump is acting in the national interest or his own private financial interest,” said Senator Peters. “The only way to truly eliminate financial conflicts of interest in the White House is for the President to fully disclose and divest all assets that would call into question the motivations of the executive branch.”
“It should never be a question whether the President and the Vice President of the United States are doing what’s best for themselves or what’s best for the American people. That’s why I am co-introducing the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017 to ensure every presidential administration meets what have been the strongest ethical standards for decades. Government officials must do everything in their power to eliminate conflicts of interest because the American people-not personal profit-always come first,” said Senator Duckworth.
The text of the bill is available here, and a fact sheet is available here.