For someone so skilled at raising questions about corruption and influence-peddling by Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump seems strangely blind to the serious ethical conflicts weeding his own backyard.
He’s resisting calls to put his assets in a strict blind trust, even though the operations of his 65 properties and 500 companies in at least 22 countries almost certainly will put the interests of businessman Trump and President Trump at odds.
Most modern presidents used blind trusts, even though they aren’t legally required of them, as they are for federal employees.
Trump should use one. Instead, he says three of his children will run his businesses – even though that’s no one’s definition of a blind trust, especially since he relies heavily on his kids’ advice and has placed them on the transition team filling out his administration.
Multiple news outlets have reported that top-secret security clearances have been sought for his children. His offspring – whom he can’t hire due to nepotism rules – would have to be designated as unpaid national security advisers. This despite their lack of national security expertise, and the fact that they would also be running his businesses.
It would be a blatant conflict of interest.
NBC News says Trump also wants to take the unprecedented step of getting clearance for his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to sit in on his Presidential Daily Briefing.
Trump tweeted early Wednesday that he is not trying to get top-level security clearances for his children.
It’s unclear if he also meant Kushner, who does not help run Trump’s businesses. Still, as was regularly noted during the Clinton email scandal, America’s secrets should not be passed around among high government officials’ relatives.
Clean-government experts are rightly concerned. Citizens should be, too.
“It raises the real danger that his children will be able to influence government decisions to benefit Trump businesses and run those businesses with inside knowledge of actions and policies the government takes,” Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, told The Daily Beast.
So what, Trump backers say.
Trump “has a huge empire,” Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said on CNN Wednesday. “I don’t know how you could ever get to that point where you assure everyone that there wasn’t some kind of crossover of knowledge base that wouldn’t be helpful to the Trump empire.”
Didn’t fear of shady public-private “crossover” fuel the Clinton Foundation scandal? What’s to stop pay-for-play from invading the Trump White House – only with Trump’s children and their foreign business clients benefiting?
Trump advisor and Secretary of State candidate Rudy Giuliani says relax, just trust Trump. After all, he told CNN, Trump’s already rich. No need to enrich himself at the public’s expense.
Wealth didn’t stop Trump from stiffing contractors, did it? He should put his businesses in a strict blind trust. His children can get other jobs.
Anything less, and questions about public decisions and personal profit will dog him throughout his presidency.