President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to allow his children to mix business with his pending presidency runs the risk of creating “princelings” like the offspring of leaders who serve as middlemen in China between the government and business, a former ambassador and ethics lawyer told members of Congress.
The suggestion came as Democrats on the House Government Oversight Committee held a forum to outline what the panel’s top Democrat called “unprecedented conflicts of interest” facing the incoming president and his sprawling business empire. No Republican members of Congress attended the forum, although ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings said they had been invited.
Trump had planned this week to detail his plans for handling his sweeping business empire, but on Monday scrapped a press conference, saying he’ll reschedule “in the near future.”
Norm Eisen, who served as President Obama’s top ethics lawyer, and Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s ethics counsel, told the panel that the incoming president needs to divest his ownership of the Trump organization by selling his assets and putting the proceeds in the hands of a trustee.
Trump, however, has suggested that he’ll put the company in the hands of his two eldest sons.
But his children have served on his transition team and have sat in meetings with world leaders, noted Eisen. They joined Trump on Wednesday at a meeting with tech industry leaders at Trump Tower.
“What on earth are they thinking?” Eisen said. The former ambassador to the Czech Republic said the practice runs the risk of creating so-called “princelings,” derided in China as the influential children of political leaders.
“They’re used as a conduit to influence the leader,” Eisen said. “He needs to make a clean break, not just on operations, but on interest. And the kids have no place in the transition or in the government.”
JP Morgan last month agreed to pay $264 million to settle a U.S. probe into its practice of hiring well-connected Chinese “princelings” to win business, the Financial Times reported.
Eisen called for Trump to create “big beautiful walls, ethics law. The mingling of kids in government business and the transition is just unacceptable.”
Trump’s ownership calls into question another risk, Painter said: the Trump name is on buildings across the globe “that could be subject to terrorist attacks,” he said.