Posted: 4:12 pm Wednesday, December 14th, 2016
By Jamie Dupree
Democrats in Congress brought in ethics experts to Capitol Hill on Wednesday, trying their best to make the case that President-Elect Donald Trump is going to be in a hotbed of ethical troubles, unless he unwinds himself from his extensive family business interests.
“President-Elect Trump should divest himself of any and all business interests that create conflicts of interest,” said Richard Painter, a former White House lawyer for President George W. Bush.
“What should Donald J. Trump do now?” asked Norm Eisen, a former special counsel for President Barack Obama. “The President-Elect should do a true, blind trust.”
Fmr WH ethics atty Richard Painter: If Trump doesn't sell, don't know if 'the chief justice can even show up to give him the oath'
— Geoff Earle (@GeoffEarle) December 14, 2016
Stephen Gillers of the New York University of Law argued it needed to go one step further – not a blind trust, but the full sale of all of the President-Elect’s holdings.
“New York lawyers can unwind his interests in his organization in six months,” Gillers said. “It can’t be done overnight, but it can be done quickly.”
This was to be the week where President-Elect Donald Trump was going to reveal how he would step back from his various family businesses, but plans for a news conference on Thursday were scrapped.
I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my …
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
But now that is on hold, and Democrats have used the delay to raise questions about everything that Trump holds, especially his hotel, just blocks from the White House.
23 Democratic Senators joined in a letter to the President-Elect on Wednesday to urge him to divest all of his holdings.
“Whether the President of the United States makes decisions about potential trade agreements or sending troops into war, the American people need to know that their President is acting in their best interest,” wrote the group led by Sen. Tom Carper (D-DE).
Carper also released guidance provided by the Office on Government Ethics, which used Twitter to urge Trump to divest, in order to avoid ethical tangles.
“Transferring operational control of a company to one’s children would not constitute the establishment of a qualified blind trust, nor would it eliminate conflicts of interest,” Carper quoted the OGE.
The biggest flash point may well be over Trump’s hotel, which is on Pennsylvania Avenue, in between the Capitol and the White House.
“Every one of those dollars that hits the hotel – come January 20 – will be in violation on the United States Constitution,” said Eisen, who joined others in arguing that Trump would run afoul of the “Emoluments” clause of the Constitution.
For now, it’s not clear how Trump will proceed – but it seems a given that Democrats in Congress will be hot on his heels, no matter the details.
About the Author
Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog. A native of Washington, D.C., Jamie has covered Congress and politics in the nation’s capital since the Reagan Administration, and has been reporting for Cox since 1989.