In a letter sent today to President-elect Trump, a bipartisan group of organizations and individuals with expertise in governance issues called on Trump to divest his business enterprises or face serious conflicts of interest and Emoluments Clause problems as president.
The letter representing voices from all parts of the political spectrum urged President-elect Trump “to divest your business enterprises into a true blind trust managed by an independent trustee having no family relationship with you, or the equivalent, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ethics in Government Act.”
The letter noted and expressed appreciation for the steps that have been taken by President-elect Trump to address his conflicts of interest problems but concluded:
As long as you continue to maintain ownership of The Trump Organization, no other steps that you take will prevent the serious conflicts of interest, appearance of conflicts, and Emoluments Clause problems that will exist throughout your presidency.
In these circumstances, you cannot separate the presidency from your business enterprises.
The letter stated that while Trump had made a good start, “we wish to be clear that the only way to solve the problems you face remains divesting your business enterprises into a blind trust managed by an independent trustee or the equivalent.”
The 29 signers to the letter included Republicans and Democrats, liberal and conservative groups.
The letter signers include Norm Eisen, President Obama’s chief ethics lawyer, and Richard Painter, President George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer. They also include two former Republican governors and five former Republican House members.
Signers range from Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute and author of Clinton Cash to scholars Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann, authors of It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, from Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OK), a former chairman of the House Republican Policy Committee to Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe, from John Pudner, Executive Director of Take Back our Republic to Public Citizen (see below for a full list of the signers of the letter.)
The letter stated:
Domestic interests and foreign individuals, companies, banks and governments involved in business activities with The Trump Organization will be doing business with and potentially providing financial benefits and profits directly to the president of the United States.
The domestic and foreign interests that provide financial benefits and profits inuring directly to you also may have policy issues pending before your administration. Your own substantial business interests also may influence the policy decisions you and your administration make.
As long as you retain ownership of The Trump Organization, you will ultimately be the financial beneficiary of business arrangements made by domestic and foreign interests who are seeking favorable treatment from your administration on policy matters.
According to the letter:
The problems you face cannot be solved by turning management of The Trump Organization over to your family members. The same conflicts and appearance of conflicts problems would exist in these circumstances. Domestic and foreign interests would see providing financial benefits to your family as a means to curry favor and obtain influence with you.
The letter concluded:
Respectfully, you cannot serve the country as president and also own a world-wide business enterprise, without seriously damaging the presidency.
In order to protect the integrity and credibility of the presidency, we again urge you to divest your business enterprises into a true blind trust managed by an independent trustee, or the equivalent, in accordance with the guidelines of the Ethics in Government Act.
Thank you for your attention to our letter.
Signers of the letter include:
Ambassador (ret.) Norm Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyer, 2009-2011
Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer, 2005-2007
Campaign Legal Center
Arne H. Carlson, Former Governor of Minnesota (R)
Center for American Progress
Center for Media and Democracy
Former Rep. Rod Chandler (R-WA)
Former Rep. Mickey Edwards (R-OK), Former Chairman, House Republican Policy Committee.
Former Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD)
People For the American Way
Project On Government Oversight (POGO)
John Pudner, Executive Director, Take Back our Republic
Former Rep. Claudine Schneider (R-R.I.)
Peter Schweizer, President, Government Accountability Institute
Former Rep. Peter Smith (R-VT)
Revolving Door Project
Zephyr Teachout, Associate Law Professor, Fordham Law School, Affiliation noted for
identification purposes only
Laurence H. Tribe, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of Constitutional Law,
Harvard Law School, Affiliation noted for identification purposes only
Christie Whitman, Former Governor of New Jersey (R)
Attachments: (1 total)
Letter to Trump conflicts of interest 1 2 17 Size: 63 kB