Statement from Democracy 21 President Fred Wertheimer
President-elect Trump is about to become a walking financial conflict-of-interest.
For example, Trump’s business enterprise reportedly owes hundreds of millions of dollars to the Bank of China. This is a state-owned bank which means that, as a businessman, Trump owes this money to the Chinese government. How will this impact Trump’s official relationship with China in his capacity as president?
And this is only one of potentially dozens of similar examples of conflicts he would face as president.
Trump’s proposal for dealing with his unprecedented conflict of interest problems is to turn control of his business empire to his children in the form of what he calls a” blind trust.”
Trump’s proposed “blind trust” is a joke.
It is dangerous to the interests of the American people. It doesn’t solve Trump’s conflicts problems, it only makes them worse.
In a real blind trust, an independent trustee who has no connection to the beneficiary is appointed to manage the assets in the trust and that trustee is the only one who knows what is being done with the assets in the blind trust.
In the “so-called” Trump “blind trust,” the Trump family would manage the trust and they will be the ones who know the business transactions that take place. In these circumstances, the Trump conflicts of interest will continue unabated and it is the American people that will be kept blind to any financial conflicts that occur.
In the attached letter to President-elect Trump, Democracy 21 joins with a number of other reform groups and ethics experts in detailing the problems with the current Trump “blind trust” proposal and in calling on President-elect Trump to adopt a real blind trust to address his conflict problems.
If President-elect Trump continues with his current approach, with no real protection to shield his assets from his government decision-making, Trump will, from the outset of his presidency, undermine the integrity and credibility of the office he holds and public confidence in his presidency.
Statement from Reform Groups
WASHINGTON, D.C. – More than a dozen pro-democracy organizations and leading government ethics experts today urged President-elect Donald Trump to divest his holdings in his business assets. They called on Trump or an independent trustee to sell his assets, with proceeds invested in treasury bills and mutual funds that do not create conflicts of interest. Alternately, the proceeds could be invested by an independent trustee operating a genuine blind trust.
“If family members choose to stay involved with Trump Organization businesses, or any other business, then a clear firewall must be established so that these family members have no involvement with policy decisions at the White House,” the letter says.
“Failure to follow this course of action will create conflicts of interest of unprecedented magnitude,” the letter says.
“The nature and diversity of the Trump Organization businesses mean that a wide range of government policy has direct impact on those businesses. This includes important domestic matters related to tax policy, standards for government contractors, consumer protection, the functioning of the civil justice system, financial regulation, labor rights, workplace safety and health standards, and bankruptcy law.”
The Trump Organization has substantial wealth invested in hotels and golf courses around the world in addition to past involvement in failed ventures like casinos, airlines, professional football and other industries. Trump’s companies are privately held, so financial details often are scarce or incomplete. But as the president-elect of the United States, his countless investments, coupled with no publicly available tax records, cry out for public disclosure and blind trusts for his wealth, the groups and ethicists said.
Matters of foreign policy also are implicated because of the global reach of the Trump Organization, the letter said. “The American people need to know that when you are making decisions concerning our allies and our adversaries, you are not doing so because they are allies or adversaries of your businesses.”
The letter cautions, “There is no way to square [President-Elect Trump’s] campaign commitments to the American people – and your even higher, ethical duties as their president – with the rampant, inescapable conflicts that will engulf your presidency if you maintain connections with the Trump Organization, including by maintaining ownership with control transferred to your children.”
Signers of the letter include:
Gary D. Bass, Campaign for Accountability, Campaign Legal Center, Center for American, Progress, Center for Media and Democracy, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), Common Cause, Democracy 21, Ambassador (ret.) Norm Eisen, chief White House ethics lawyer, 2009-2011, Essential Information, Issue One, Thomas E. Mann, OpentheGovernment.Org, Norman Ornstein, Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer, 2005-2007, People for the American Way, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen, Sunlight Foundation
Contacts: Don Owens, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 588-7767
Angela Bradbery, email@example.com, (202) 588-7741
Jordan Libowitz, JLibowitz@citizensforethics.org, (202) 408-5565
Kathryn Beard, firstname.lastname@example.org, (202) 355-9600
Gabriela Schneider, email@example.com, (202) 518-0749
Ari Goldberg, firstname.lastname@example.org (240) 678-9102
Attachments: (1 total)
trump-blind-trust-sign-on-letter Size: 49 kB