Turning the White House Into a Profit Center

Turning the White House Into a Profit Center

A report today suggests key members of President Trump’s family are more concerned with using their father’s new position to increase the family fortune than with serving the American public.

A small but important chunk of Washington is abuzz these days with gossip about backstabbing inside the White House and the future of Steve Bannon, the white nationalist who many believe is the mastermind behind President Trump’s election.

A long and heavily-sourced story – the reporters interviewed 21 Trump “aides, confidants and allies” – in today’s Washington Post is brimming with juicy details about infighting between Bannon and Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law. The piece suggests Bannon is on the way out, pointing to an unusual public slap at Bannon delivered by Trump himself earlier this week in a New York Post interview.

While the story focuses on Bannon, a few paragraphs near the end suggest that key members of Trump’s family are more concerned with using their father’s new position to increase the family fortune than with serving the American public. The two paragraphs below are especially telling:

“Trump’s three oldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — and Kushner have been frustrated by the impression of chaos inside the White House and feel that their father has not always been served well by his senior staff, according to people with knowledge of their sentiments. The Trump heirs are interested in any changes that might help resuscitate the presidency and preserve the family’s name at a time when they are trying to expand the Trump Organization’s portfolio of hotels.

“The fundamental assessment is that if they want to win the White House in 2020, they’re not going to do it the way they did in 2016, because the family brand would not sustain the collateral damage,” said one well-connected Republican operative, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss the president’s family. “It would be so protectionist, nationalist and backward-looking that they’d only be able to build in Oklahoma City or the Ozarks.” (emphasis mine)

Let that sink in for a moment. It is hard to imagine a more stinging indictment of the Trump family or a more compelling argument on behalf of legislation requiring Trump to release his tax returns than the one that emerges from those sentences.

Donald Trump and his family sit atop an international real estate empire that is worth billions of dollars. It includes hotels, golf resorts, office buildings, apartments and other businesses. Americans have given Trump the greatest honor we can bestow and have entrusted him with the nation’s future.

Rather than turn now to public service to express their gratitude and perhaps give something back in return for all they’ve received, the Trumps apparently remain fixated on the family fortune. The possibilities for conflict between their interest in protecting and increasing their wealth and the president’s responsibility to look out for the public interest are endless; a president worthy of the title would address those possibilities by placing his assets in a blind trust and releasing his tax returns. A Congress worthy of the American people would demand that he do so.