Trump Must Divest Himself of All Business Holdings, Democracy Advocates and Ethicists Say
- David Vance
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.
“The American people voted Mr. Trump into office on his promise that he would change the way business is done in Washington. To succeed in that goal, he must permanently sever all ties to his many business interests around the globe,” said Paul S. Ryan, Common Cause Vice President of Policy and Litigation. “If Mr. Trump does not place his business assets into a genuine blind trust, the conflicts of interest will become so extensive that they will undermine not only the credibility of his Administration but of the United States. Turning your businesses over to your children is what leaders of Banana Republics do. Americans expect and deserve better from the Trump Administration.”
“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 sent today 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.
To read the letter, click here.