2016/12/17 Saturday- The Conscience of an American Citizen
Conflict of Interests - a looming Constitutional Crisis
Another week passed with more alarming signs of what kind of disastrous presidency Trump will bring upon our country. But none is more disturbing than the Conflict of Interests between Trump’s vast secretive business and the enormous power of being the president of the United States.
On 12/12, Trump canceled the scheduled press conference in which he was supposed to discuss in details how he would deal with the conflict of interests once taking over the White House. His transition team said some sort of announcement would be made before January 20. Well, back in August 2016, Trump’s campaign also promised to hold a press conference to provide evidences to answer questions whether Melania came to America under fraudulent documents and whether she worked as a model with a legal work permit. However, that press conference never materialized, and the press failed its duty miserably, never putting on any pressure on this issue.
Trump has again repeatedly and falsely claimed that he was not mandated to do anything with his businesses. However, the Constitution Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8, which is the once-opaque-now-famous “Emoluments Clause” clearly stated that:
No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.
All previous presidents have done the right thing to avoid any potential conflict of interests while in office.
President Kennedy, coming from one of the richest families at the time, placed all of his own assets into a blind trust for someone else to manage his personal fortune, so that he had no idea what his assets were.
President Nixon sold all of his assets and used the money to buy one house in Florida, and another one in California, thus completely separating his assets from the presidency.
Carter transferred his peanut farm into a blind trust. In fact, the Congressional Republicans hired a special prosecutor and spent six months investigating the so-called Peanutgate, and finally produced no evidence whatsoever of any wrongdoing by Carter.
Subsequently, both President Clinton and President G. W. Bush used blind trusts to wall off their assets.
While running for president in 2007Hiliary even liquidated her blind trust to eliminate any potential issue. Since then, she has kept the proceeds in bank accounts, treasury notes and mutual funds.
President Obama has kept their assets in mix of bank accounts, treasury notes, index funds and college saving accounts, which have not caused any possibility of conflict of interests.
Trump, on the other hand, has indicated repeatedly (1) he would not divest his business interests, and (2) his children would take over the businesses. And his transition team claimed by showing his children sitting in various meetings, such as Ivanka in the meeting with Japanese Prime Minister on 11/18, and his three children in the meeting with the tech leaders on 12/15, Trump has demonstrated transparency, therefore resolving the issue of conflict of interests.
These claims are simply absurd. First, by refusing to divest his business and letting his children continue to run his business empire, anyone and any company, domestic or foreign, will undoubtedly understand they are doing business with the family of the president of the United States. Secondly, any foreign government can simply take actions on Trump’s business to carry favor or commit extortion on the president of the United States. And none of these potential threats to our country will be resolved by simply showing his children in those meetings without releasing full transcript of those meetings.
And let’s not forget, by refusing to release his tax returns, Trump has violated the bipartisan tradition of releasing tax returns by all presidents and nominees since Nixon. Therefore, the country will never know the full extent of Trump’s business scope, and where potential conflict of interests would arise, domestic and overseas. By the way, the Clintons have released 39 years’ worth of tax returns since their days of in Arkansas, and Trump urged Mitt Romney to release tax return in 2012. Just another typical Trump brand of hypocrisy.
In fact, we have now seen the first of such scenarios. During a congratulatory phone call Trump mentioned Barbaros Muratglu by name to Turkey’s president Erdogan, who then shortly ordered the arrest of Muratglu, who is a senior executive at Dogan Holdings, which built the Trump Towners in Istanbul. Trump has been paid up to $10 million by the developer since 2014 for affixing his name atop of the buildings. President Erdogan has blamed Imam, Fethulla Gulen, a permeant resident in the U.S., for masterminding the recent coup, and demanded his extradition. The Obama administration has refused such request. However, the authoritarian-style Turkey’s president obviously believes he now holds a leverage on Trump, and the U.S. government, soon after January 20, 2017.
Unfortunately, all of these dramas have happened even before the inauguration. A Trump presidency will be a time-bomb for the constitution and democracy, unless the Congress, particularly the Republicans who controlled both chambers, takes actions as aggressive as they did in the so-called Peanutgate investigation.