Remember President Trump’s promise to put his far-flung business empire in a blind trust, the better to ensure that his personal financial interests could never conflict with his obligation to serve the public interest?
Turns out that was fake news. Bigly.
ProPublica and other news outlets are reporting today that a sentence buried deep in revisions of the president’s trust agreement makes it clear that Trump can tap his fortune at will and without disclosing it publicly.
ProPublica helpfully reprinted Page 161 of the revised trust agreement. Number 9 is the relevant provision:
“It’s incredibly broad language,” said Frederick J. Tansill, a family estate and trust attorney outside Washington, told ProPublica.
“For tax purposes, it’s as if the trust doesn’t exist at all,” said Steven Rosenthal, a senior fellow at the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. “It’s just an entity on paper, nothing more.”
Trump’s adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr. ostensibly are managing his businesses while he serves as president. And while the Trust Agreement, (see #10 above) specifies that the “trustees” are not to report to Trump on the holdings and income of the trust, Eric Trump told Forbes magazine last month that he plans to give his father regular updates.
Eric Trump is listed as chairman of the Trust’s advisory board, not a trustee, so there apparently is no bar to his communications with his father. And ProPublica notes that by exercising his right to take profits from the trust, Trump can effectively track the performance of his businesses.
The story highlights Trump’s continuing disregard for ethical safeguards that his predecessors have observed routinely and that lower ranking federal employees are required to follow.
The White House tried on Monday to shrug off the ProPublic story; Press Secretary Sean Spicer called the journalistic non-profit group a “left wing blog.” ProPublica answered on Trump’s favorite online outlet, Twitter, with a devastating series of Tweets detailing its tough reporting on both the Trump and Obama administrations.
A bipartisan assortment of experts on federal ethics laws, including Norm Eisen, who was President Obama’s ethics “czar” and Richard Painter, who held the same job in the George W. Bush administration, have condemned Trump’s refusal to create a true blind trust and suggested he risks violating the “Emoluments Clause” of the Constitution, which bars federal officials from accepting any payments or gifts from foreign governments. Trump resorts and hotels around the world, including the Trump International just a few blocks from the White House, routinely host and do other business with foreign governments.
Office: Common Cause National
Tags: Executive Ethics