Democrats’ bill to force Trump to di­vest busi­ness em­pire

Seeks to elim­i­nate con­flicts of in­ter­est

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY DAVID SHERFIN­SKI

Democrats an­nounced leg­is­la­tion Thurs­day to force Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump to di­vest his mas­sive busi­ness em­pire, as they sought to go on of­fense against the man who con­founded them dur­ing the elec­tion.

A hand­ful of lib­eral Se­nate Democrats, in­clud­ing Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren of Mas­sachusetts, said they’ll in­tro­duce the bill early next month when Congress con­venes, just ahead of Mr. Trump’s in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Their bill came the same day that Mr. Trump had ini­tially promised to ex­plain how he would ex­tri­cate him­self from his real es­tate and golf course hold­ings — an ex­pla­na­tion that never ma­te­ri­al­ized, as the pres­i­dent-elect put off a planned press con­fer­ence un­til next month.

“The only way for Pres­i­dent-elect Trump to truly elim­i­nate con­flicts-of-in­ter­est is to di­vest his fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests and place them in a blind trust,” Ms. War­ren said as she and her col­leagues an­nounced their bill. “This has been the standard for pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents, and our bill makes clear the con­tin­u­ing ex­pec­ta­tion that Pres­i­dent-elect Trump do the same.”

Their bill would re­quire the pres­i­dent to “dis­close and di­vest” any po­ten­tial fi­nan­cial con­flicts of in­ter­est. It would also re­quire pres­i­den­tial ap­pointees to re­cuse them­selves from any spe­cific mat­ters in­volv­ing the fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests of the pres­i­dent.

It stip­u­lates that the pres­i­dent and his “mi­nor or de­pen­dent chil­dren” di­vest their in­ter­ests. Mr. Trump has said he plans to turn his busi­ness over to his two adult sons, Don­ald Jr. and Eric, upon en­ter­ing the White House.

Pres­i­den­tial transition ad­viser Kellyanne Con­way sug­gested on Thurs­day that Ivanka, Mr. Trump’s adult daugh­ter, and her hus­band Jared Kush­ner could ul­ti­mately have roles in the ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“I think that we would ben­e­fit tremen­dously by hav­ing them in­side the ad­min­is­tra­tion if in fact that could hap­pen,” Ms. Con­way told re­porters at Trump Tower.

Don­ald Jr., Eric, Ivanka, and Mr. Kush­ner are all of­fi­cial mem­bers of the transition team.

“The anti-nepo­tism law ap­par­ently has an ex­cep­tion if you want to work in the West Wing, be­cause the pres­i­dent is able to ap­point his own staff,” Ms. Con­way said ear­lier on MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe.” “The pres­i­dent does have dis­cre­tion to choose a staff of his lik­ing.”

Amid on­go­ing ques­tions about his busi­ness ties, Mr. Trump had promised a press con­fer­ence to clear things up. But transition spokesman Ja­son Miller told re­porters Thurs­day they are still work­ing on de­tails.

“I think the pri­or­ity here is to make sure that we get it right, and if that takes a lit­tle bit more time, then I think the Amer­i­can peo­ple un­der­stand that,” Mr. Miller said on a con­fer­ence call Thurs­day.

But Mr. Trump him­self seemed to dis­miss the com­plex­i­ties of the prob­lem.

“The me­dia tries [too] hard to make my move to the White House, as it per­tains to by busi­ness, so com­plex — when ac­tu­ally it isn’t!” he said in a Twit­ter post Thurs­day morn­ing.

Democrats are de­mand­ing an­swers in the wake of a re­cent re­port in Govern­ment Ex­ec­u­tive that said Mr. Trump will be in vi­o­la­tion of the terms on his new Wash­ing­ton, D.C., ho­tel when he en­ters of­fice be­cause of a ban on elected govern­ment of­fi­cials be­ing party to the deal.

House Democrats said this week that a deputy com­mis­sioner at the Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion (GSA), which is in­volved with the pro­ject built out of the Old Post Of­fice build­ing, con­firmed that Mr. Trump will in­deed be breach­ing the lease agree­ment when he takes of­fice.

They also wrote that Ivanka Trump’s in­volve­ment in the ne­go­ti­a­tions, cou­pled with her re­la­tion­ship to Mr. Trump and her role in the transition, con­sti­tute “ob­vi­ous” con­flicts of in­ter­est.

But the GSA said it does not have a po­si­tion on whether Mr. Trump needs to di­vest from the pro­ject and that to make a de­fin­i­tive state­ment about what con­sti­tutes a breach would be pre­ma­ture.

“In fact, no de­ter­mi­na­tion re­gard­ing the Old Post Of­fice can be com­pleted un­til the full cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the Pres­i­dent-elect’s busi­ness ar­range­ments have been fi­nal­ized and he has as­sumed of­fice,” the agency said. “GSA is com­mit­ted to re­spon­si­bly ad­min­is­ter­ing all of the leases to which it is a party.”

With the help of sev­eral lib­eral ad­vo­cacy groups, ac­tivists de­liv­ered more than 500,000 pe­ti­tion sig­na­tures to var­i­ous Trump prop­er­ties and GOP Sen. Pat Toomey’s of­fice on Thurs­day in a bid to get Mr. Trump to di­vorce him­self from his busi­ness and to urge Congress to in­ves­ti­gate.

Ms. Con­way said the de­mands by Mr. Trump’s de­trac­tors are ex­treme.

“I think any­thing short of him never talk­ing to his adult chil­dren again won’t sat­isfy his crit­ics,” she said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Sen. El­iz­a­beth War­ren said “the only way for Pres­i­dent-elect Trump to truly elim­i­nate con­flicts-of-in­ter­est is to di­vest his fi­nan­cial in­ter­ests and place them in a blind trust.”

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