In a letter sent today to senators, a group of 18 organizations and individuals with expertise in governance issues strongly urged senators to support and cosponsor the Presidential Trade Transparency Act of 2017.

The Act, sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden and other senators, would require a president to disclose his foreign income, assets and liabilities with regard to any country that is the subject of a trade negotiation, trade enforcement action (or inaction), or decision to grant or deny tariff preferences. The bill would require the information to be reported consistent with the information required to be disclosed under the Ethics in Government Act, and to describe in detail the nature of the connection between the income, asset, or liability and the foreign country.  

A companion bill is being sponsored in the House by Rep. Richard Neal. 

The legislation, according to its sponsors, also would allow “Congress to properly exercise its oversight responsibilities and assess whether the authority it has granted to the president is the subject of undue influence due to a business relationship between the president and one or more foreign entities.” 

The letter to senators was signed by the Campaign Legal Center, Common Cause, CREW, Democracy 21, Demos, Every Voice, League of Women Voters, MAYDAY.US, Norman Eisen – chief White House Ethics lawyer 2009-2011, Norman Ornstein, People For the American Way, Public Citizen, Represent.Us, Richard Painter – chief White House ethics lawyer 2005-2007, Tom Mann, Transparency International USA, Seth Waxman – former U.S. Solicitor General, and Sunlight Foundation.

The letter says, “President Trump’s decision to retain ownership of The Trump Organization and his related worldwide business enterprises has raised conflicts of interest and Emoluments Clause problems for the president and the country.

The bill will provide the American people with public information to determine whether in the case of trade-related matters a president is violating the Emoluments Clause. 

The letter says, “If a president fails to submit timely reports, the bill would eliminate the legal effect of any presidential proclamation modifying U.S. tariffs with respect to the country and trade agreement involved and would disqualify the trade agreement from receiving the expedited consideration provided for approval of trade agreements.”

 

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