Trump won, for many reasons. The majority of the voters in the electoral college mechanism were attracted to the prospects of draining the DC swamp. No doubt, the FBI October email surprise inured to his betterment. The country was very concerned about the prospects of more years of allegedly corrupt Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former President, Bill. Thanks to Wikileaks, an AP article, and other writings, the Clinton Foundation became a major issue. The Trump supporters and anti-Clinton voters had just gotten their collective fill with self-dealing, lack of transparency and their possible use of government for personal gain.
Yet, one of the issues, I previously raised during the campaign and which was deeply probed by the Washington Post, has not been resolved. It certainly needs to be done so, sooner rather than later. The burning question--what is Donald Trump going to do with his business interests as he becomes the most powerful man in the world?
Unlike the Clinton Foundation, the Trump business is private. The foundation requires public reporting and the Clinton’s have made their income taxes available for the world to see. True, Trump, did file a one-hundred-four-page document that shows his assets and estimated net worth, but, his income taxes have not yet been revealed.
Whether he failed to disclose the incomes taxes is water underneath the bridge for campaign purposes. However, it becomes particularly relevant as he holds the reign of power of government. The income taxes would reveal a tremendous amount of information including the extent of his contractual relationships and business partners.
Why is this information important? The answer is simple. Everything Trump does now, in picking his transition and certainly as President of the United States, will be heavily scrutinized for many reasons, including ensuring there is no public self-dealing.
In the past, Presidents of the United States put their holdings in a “blind trust”. The point has been to ensure that the President has zero knowledge and influence over his holdings and obligations. What makes Trump uniquely different is his enormous success of his business, his real estate holdings in foreign countries, his loans from foreign entities, his business relationships and partnerships in areas of the world, such as China, Russia, the Middle East, that can be influenced by decisions and events over which the president now has control.
During the campaign, Trump said his kids would control his interests, however, that might not satisfy those with curious minds and desire for transparent and clean government. For one, Trump will always know what his kids are doing with the family business and they, in turn, have access to governmental information that could greatly benefit the family patrimony and could create unfair business practices.
In the Facebook video discussion, Jim Brown and I discuss this very sensitive issue that was barely analyzed during the primary or general election. Arguably, there appears not to be any legal requirement for the President to put his holdings in a blind trust in which that Chief Executive would have zero knowledge and influence over the success, failings, change of character of those holdings. The best case scenario is the President would not know what the trust managers do even if the assets are liquidated. That lack of precedence for family holdings of such enormous wealth and extensive international tentacles such as those of the Trump family is an area that needs resolution, immediately.
Trump will obviously demand deep background and scrutiny over those people of which he brings into the cabinet. Now that he will be in charge of USA Inc, the public needs the same access to information to ensure that decisions made are for the benefit of his constituency and not for his or his family’s advantages.
The test is not whether a conflict of interest exists but whether there is the perception of conflicted interests. Of all of the decisions by this very successful international businessman, the issue of trust, particularly ‘blind trust” just might top all others.