Statement of Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer
Democracy 21 urges support for the bill announced this week by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to require presidents and vice presidents to divest all of their assets that could result in conflicts of interest into a true blind trust managed by an independent trustee.
President-elect Trump has indicated, to date, that he is unwilling to take the steps necessary to avoid the potential conflicts of interest and Emoluments Clause problems that he will face from the day he takes office on January 20, 2017.
Trump’s current position is that he will maintain his ownership of his business empire and turn over its management to his sons. This is no solution at all to Trump’s problems. When faced with choosing between the presidency and his business empire, President-elect Trump, in essence, is saying he will take both.
This means, for example, that all of the global business agreements that license the use of the Trump name will shortly be licensing President Trump’s name in return for money. This misuse of the presidency for personal financial gain is unprecedented.
Trump’s position, to date, is in stark contrast to the decision made by all presidents for the past four decades to protect the integrity of the presidency by eliminating any financial conflicts of interest.
The Warren bill would solve the problems that Trump is refusing to solve for himself, as well as solve any such problems for future presidents.
Democracy 21 joined with a bipartisan group of leading governance experts in sending a letter to President-elect Trump on December 9, 2016 stating that Trump’s continued ownership of his business enterprises will cause serious problems for his presidency and the country.
The letter urged Trump “to divest [his] business enterprises into a true blind trust managed by an independent trustee having no family relationship with [him], or the equivalent, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ethics in Government Act.”
This is the approach that is taken in the Warren bill.
If Trump continues to refuse to eliminate the conflicts of interest facing him, then Congress must act to protect the integrity and credibility of the presidency and the interests of the American people.
The Warren bill will accomplish this goal and Democracy 21 strongly urges Senators to cosponsor and vote for this legislation.