WASHINGTON, DC, Dec. 15, 2016 – On the day President-elect Donald Trump was supposed to inform the American people about his future with the Trump Organization, a group of Democratic U.S. senators announced they will introduce a bill in January 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.
The co-sponsors of this legislation include Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
The senators have consistently asked for more transparency and accountability from President-elect Trump. In November, the lawmakers 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 and place 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.”
“President-elect Trump’s financial entanglements are unprecedented in American history, and the American people are still waiting to hear what steps he will take before January 20th to guard against conflicts of interest and corruption in his Administration. Just this week, the President-elect cancelled a scheduled announcement about severing his business ties, taking time instead to meet with Kanye West,” said Senator Durbin. “The American people deserve to know that their President is putting the United States’ interests before his own, his family’s, or that of any foreign government.”
“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.
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“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.”
“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.”
A fact sheet about the bill is available here. The legislation will be introduced when the Senate returns to session in January.