[Image: The Daily Shot – Wall Street Journal]

The View:

POTUS has not committed to disclosing his federal tax returns, publishing a complete listing of business interests, obtained approval from the Ethics Office for complying with conflict of interest requirement in federal law or the Emolument Clause of the Constitution.  The Solution: He needs to immediately disclose his federal tax returns, put his business investments and company into a blind trust and develop a conflict of interest plan that is approved by the Office of Government Ethics. Today, a suit has been filed by a distinguished team of professors and litigators from the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Government – CREW in US District Court in New York requiring that POTUS comply with the Emolument Clause of the Constitution.

The Story:

I still remember when I was ten years old, I wasn’t telling my Mom the truth about something. She could tell I was holding back, then sternly instructed: “If you are not doing anything wrong, then you don’t need to lie or cover it up”.  She was right and I learned a valuable lesson.

POTUS45 has decided not to place his private business into a blind trust as the Office of Government Ethics has recommended he do to eliminate all conflict of interest concerns and possible Emolument Clause violations.   Why not?

There are a number reasons why the American people are entitled to have a President (from any party) completely committed to his job, not constantly weighing conflicts of interest and setting himself up for extortion (and thereby threatening US interests):

  1. Full Time Job Commitment – without completely dropping his business interests he is going to be distracted consciously or unconsciously by the interests of his company versus the right policy or action for the American people. The President’s job is the most demanding job in the world, if he is committed to doing it he must sacrifice personal gain for service as Office of Government Ethics Director, Walter Shaub, has noted: “He’s going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He’s going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world. So no, I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America.”
  1. Conflicts of Interest – this is a basic business and organizational requirement, that he should never be in a position where his interests are being considering in weighing a course of action. He has properties in many cities in the US and the world, he will be making decisions that will enhance the value of his properties or possibly decrease the value.  For example, he has property in Scotland, a golf course on the beach, meantime the Scottish government decides to enforce shore environmental laws or place windmills out to sea (an idea being discussed now).  He sees this move as reducing the value of his property, so he drops funding to the Scottish government for military training. The point is that he can’t be dealing for his own interests at the same time he negotiating on behalf of our interests.
  1. Foreign Government Extortion – our President has a number of resorts all over the world, in Asia he has partnered with a business man who is running for office and connected to opposition groups to an existing government. Extortion may occur when a foreign government may say: if the US government does not provide funding for a government project, then the government may find the POTUS family owned resort in violation of government taxes owned, food safety violations, or zoning violations.  Even trumped up charges could be used to make our president think twice about doing the right thing for the US, and to possibly punish his partner.  Worse yet, the government may in prison the in-country business partner and make demands of the US government for his release such as a change in policy or to supply military assistance.
  1. Emolument Clause – he has just taken the oath of office declaring that he will ‘uphold the Constitution’ – ok good. The Emolument Clause Article 1 Section 9 Clause 8 states: “No title of nobility shall be granted by the United States: and no person holding any office of profit or trust under them, shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”  He can’t allow his sons (possibly nepotism law violation) or his businesses to accept remuneration or compensation from any foreign government official or employee – this clause is clear. Randall D. Eliason, a law professor at the Georgetown University Law School, and former Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, has observed that the clause is broader than a simple bribery condition, but also requires government officials to avoid the appearance of impropriety.

These are more than enough logical reasons for the President to place all his properties, investments and businesses into a blind trust – where he has no knowledge of whether his actions are increasing or decreasing their value.

The Solution:

  1. Disclosure of Federal Taxes – we don’t know where all his properties and investments are, under a bi-partisan investigation a subpoena would force disclosure of his business interests. Then, we and government ethics officials would be better informed in monitoring the President.
  1. Bi-partisan Investigation – next his investments need to be investigated for accuracy, possible foreign government links and contract conflicts. The present approach where his sons run his businesses, he pledges to make no new deals and then go back to it after he leaves office is not good enough to meet the ethics office standard.
  1. Ethics Office Plan Approval – he needs to work with the Office of Government Ethics, write up an acceptable plan that is approved by the ethics department. We ask all his appointees to do this, many have complied, Rex Tillerson. cabinet appointee for Secretary of State has worked closely with the ethics office and may lose as much as $ 7M, but he wants to serve the country well.
  1. Lawsuit Against POTUS – The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington – CREW filed a civil complaint today in US District Court in Manhattan, finding that POTUS had violated the Emolument Clause of the Constitution. The CREW team includes: Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, University of California-Irvine Law School Dean Erwin Chermerinsky and Fordham University law professor Zephyr Teachout, as well as Supreme Court litigator Deepak Gupta.

We the people he serves are looking for leadership on his part to set aside personal wealth and privilege to focus on being our President first, not second.

We deserve nothing less than full impartial commitment to the most important job in our country, otherwise conflicts of interest will dog his administration continuously impacting his ability to govern and lead the free world.

Editor Note: References for this post appear in the Research tab under Emolument Clause & Conflicts of Interest)

Update – Sen. Feinstein Calls Out Trump On China Trademark Approval – Feb 17 2017

“China’s decision to award President Trump with a new trademark allowing him to profit from the use of his name is a clear conflict of interest and deeply troubling,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) in a statement. “If this isn’t a violation of the Emoluments Clause, I don’t know what is.”

Right after this approval he changed his policy moving to the One China Policy – will he stay with this position, or when Taiwan gives him something will he shift to recognizing them?