Donald Trump’s plans for how he’ll separate himself from his businesses have been criticized as “inadequate” by the government’s chief ethics officer.
Walter Shaub, director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) said that if President-elect Trump merely hands off his business to his adult children — Donald Jr. and Eric — without fully divesting his assets and placing them in a blind trust, he’s still theoretically capable of making executive decisions that could enrich himself or his family.
“The plan [Trump] has announced doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the last four decades have met,” Shaub said at the Brookings Institute, seemingly referring to ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, who sold off roughly $171 million in shares of the Exxon stock he held prior to his confirmation hearings.
“They are not going to discuss [the business] with me,” said Trump, referring to his two adult sons. “Again, I don’t have to do this. They’re not going to discuss it with me.”
At his Wednesday press conference, Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, argued that Trump will be fully in compliance with existing federal law despite not selling off his assets. Dillon told reporters that in order to avoid the perception of being paid by foreign governments and violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, the Trump Organization would donate all payments made by foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury.
“He’s voluntarily taken this on… The conflict of interest laws simply do not apply to the president and the vice president,” she said, referencing 18 U.S. Code, Section 208. However, the law Dillon referenced doesn’t state that the President is exempt from conflict of interest laws, as Trump himself said on multiple occasions.
Shaub implied to the Brookings audience that should Trump move forward with his stated plans, he could endanger the credibility of the office of President of the United States.
“We can’t risk the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for professional profit,” Shaub said, adding that Dillon and Trump’s argument that the President of the United States is exempt from conflict of interest laws “quite obviously not true.”
Tom Cahill is a writer for US Uncut based in the Pacific Northwest. He specializes in coverage of political, economic, and environmental news. You can contact him via email at [email protected], or follow him on Facebook.