Con­flict of in­ter­est trou­bles vex Trump

Dis­clo­sure, di­vest­ment are ur­gent

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Pres­i­dent- elect Don­ald Trump’s team in­sisted Wed­nes­day that his sons aren’t in­volved in an in­au­gu­ra­tion-themed event that ap­peared to prom­ise ac­cess in ex­change for char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions — but even his al­lies are say­ing Mr. Trump needs to get a han­dle on po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est.

Fully di­vorc­ing from his vast real es­tate em­pire will be dif­fi­cult for the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man, said Newt Gin­grich, for­mer speaker of the U.S. House and a Trump backer. But he said the Trump team must quickly fig­ure out what steps it can take.

“The longer they wait, the greater the ir­ri­ta­tion will be and the more con­cerned peo­ple will be,” he said in an in­ter­view with NPR pub­lished Wed­nes­day. “So it’s not to their ad­van­tage to get to the inau­gu­ral with­out hav­ing sorted this out.”

Mr. Trump won of­fice with­out re­leas­ing his tax re­turns, leav­ing vot­ers and an­a­lysts alike guess­ing at the ex­tent of his busi­ness ties and the po­ten­tial con­flicts they could pose.

That has left Mr. Trump open to fierce at­tacks from lib­eral ac­tivists who say he duped vot­ers when he cam­paigned to end back­room deal­ing in Wash­ing­ton.

“By not dis­clos­ing and di­vest­ing, Trump is be­tray­ing his own vot­ers by pri­or­i­tiz­ing his own cor­po­rate in­ter­ests at the ex­pense of work­ing fam­i­lies,” said Kait Sweeney, a spokes­woman for the Pro­gres­sive Change Cam­paign Com­mit­tee. “The framers of our Con­sti­tu­tion did not in­tend for pres­i­dents to put their own in­ter­ests and cor­po­ra­tions ahead of the Amer­i­can peo­ple.”

Mr. Trump promised to hold a press con­fer­ence on Dec. 15 to an­nounce his busi­ness plans but can­celed it. His team said it needed more time to fig­ure out mat­ters.

His tran­si­tion team is re­port­edly test­ing sev­eral op­tions for how to han­dle his hold­ings, in­clud­ing some­thing that Politico, a po­lit­i­cal trade pub­li­ca­tion, termed a “half-blind” trust.

The com­plaints from Trump op­po­nents grew this week af­ter the Cen­ter for Pub­lic In­tegrity re­ported that the Open­ing Day Foun­da­tion was hawk­ing in­au­gu­ra­tion-time meet­ings with Don­ald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump — who are set to take the reins of the Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion — in ex­change for do­na­tions of up to $1 mil­lion, with the money go­ing to con­ser­va­tion char­i­ties.

But a spokesman for the tran­si­tion team said Wed­nes­day that the event and associated de­tails are just ini­tial con­cepts that the Trump fam­ily hadn’t ap­proved or pur­sued.

“Don­ald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump are avid out­doors­men and sup­port­ers of con­ser­va­tion ef­forts, which align with the goals of this event; how­ever, they are not in­volved in any ca­pac­ity,” said tran­si­tion spokesman Ja­son Miller.

De­trac­tors have said the char­ity meet-and-greet and other ex­am­ples are ev­i­dence that Mr. Trump plans to use the pres­i­dency to en­rich him­self and his fam­ily.

Other de­vel­op­ments in­di­cate that is­sues could go be­yond per­sonal en­rich­ment and that Mr. Trump’s hold­ings are headed to­ward be­com­ing in­ter­twined with pub­lic pol­icy.

The Amer­i­can Gam­ing As­so­ci­a­tion said in a memo to Mr. Trump re­leased this week that it has “se­ri­ous con­cerns” about re­viv­ing the Yucca Moun­tain nu­clear de­pos­i­tory project in Ne­vada. The group said any po­ten­tial mishaps could have dev­as­tat­ing con­se­quences for Las Ve­gas.

If the project does move for­ward, nu­clear waste ship­ments that would the­o­ret­i­cally get moved to a re­launched repos­i­tory would pass within about a mile of one of Mr. Trump’s ho­tels in Las Ve­gas, the Pahrump Val­ley Times re­ported last month.

Mr. Trump sidestepped a ques­tion about the project a few months ago dur­ing an in­ter­view with a lo­cal tele­vi­sion re­porter, say­ing he would be sure to take a closer look at it. Pres­i­dent Obama moved to ef­fec­tively end the project dur­ing his first term, and out­go­ing Mi­nor­ity Leader Harry Reid, Ne­vada Demo­crat, has acted as some­thing of a one­man block­ade against the project for years.

On Wed­nes­day, unions rep­re­sent­ing work­ers at Mr. Trump’s ho­tels in Las Ve­gas and the District of Columbia an­nounced that they man­aged to strike new deals.

For the Las Ve­gas work­ers, that means a new con­tract start­ing Jan. 1. In the District, the par­ties struck an agree­ment to al­low an or­derly or­ga­niz­ing cam­paign at the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel built out of the Old Post Of­fice Build­ing.

The la­bor poli­cies Mr. Trump ad­vo­cates and ap­point­ments he makes to var­i­ous fed­eral courts and the Na­tional La­bor Re­la­tions Board also could have sig­nif­i­cant con­se­quences for those unions and, ul­ti­mately, his com­pany’s bot­tom line.

Mr. Trump’s ho­tel in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal also has at­tracted at­ten­tion be­cause of a pro­vi­sion in the lease that says elected gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials can­not be party to the deal, in an at­tempt to avoid po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est.

The Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion, which helped ne­go­ti­ate the deal, has said it is too early to de­ter­mine whether Mr. Trump will be in vi­o­la­tion of the deal upon en­ter­ing of­fice, but Democrats have high­lighted it as one ex­am­ple of an ar­ray of po­ten­tial con­flicts.

Politico also re­ported Wed­nes­day that Mr. Trump’s team is ex­plor­ing what is called a dis­cre­tionary trust for his as­sets, which could al­low him to con­tinue to mon­i­tor and reap rev­enue from his hold­ings even if he isn’t tech­ni­cally in charge of them any­more.

A Trump spokes­woman said no de­ci­sions had been made, but Trump op­po­nents say any­thing short of a fully “blind” trust for his as­sets and a com­plete di­vorce from his busi­ness em­pire isn’t good enough.

“The longer they wait, the greater the ir­ri­ta­tion will be and the more con­cerned peo­ple will be. So it’s not to their ad­van­tage to get to the inau­gu­ral with­out hav­ing sorted this out.” — Newt Gin­grich

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Don­ald Trump Jr. (left) and his brother Eric re­port­edly were con­sid­ered for in­volve­ment in a char­ity fundraiser, which didn’t sit well with op­po­nents.

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