Morgan Lewis was in the spotlight this week not only for its work on Trump’s controversial plans for his business but also because it received the “Russia Law Firm of the Year” award last year. Morgan Lewis does work directly for the Russian government. At least three lawyers in the firm list work for Russian sovereign wealth funds or state corporations among their accomplishments.
One realization that has emerged during a chaotic week in our nation’s capital is that America’s system for preventing ethical conflicts in government is supremely overmatched by President-elect Donald Trump and his cadre of billionaire advisers.
Donald Trump’s assertion that he does no business in Russia looks past extensive business dealings with Russians who have partnered with him and bought his properties. In fact, Trump and his family have had many dealings in Russia and with Russian emigres elsewhere.
Trump said he would maintain ownership of his global business empire but hand off control to his two oldest sons while president, an arrangement that watchdogs said would not prevent conflicts of interest in the White House.
We’ve been suckered with this tax holiday scam before. In 2004, George W. Bush pulled it on us — and instead of creating jobs, the corporate tax-dodgers eliminated thousands more of our jobs! The way to know whether or not Trump’s tax holiday will benefit workers is to see if it requires that corporations actually create the thousands of good jobs promised before they get the tax break. Anything less is just another swindle.
Even after 16 months on the campaign trail, political journalists never figured out how to accurately depict the unprecedented nature of Trump’s candidacy. Now they must find a way to reckon with and report on a president who has no regard for the freedom of the press or the norms of his office.
If Donald Trump fails to adequately separate himself from his commercial affairs, even his Republican allies in Congress must hold him accountable. Trump sought this job, and while he has made a show of breaking with traditions, he cannot break faith with the American people.
Trump’s transition team is considering the use of discretionary trusts to avoid conflicts of interest for Trump family members or administration officials. Such an arrangement would provide individuals with an alternative to selling off assets or placing wealth in blind trusts, which president-elects traditionally do.
“We’ve never seen this kind of wealth in the White House, and so traditional rules don’t work,” Gingrich during an appearance on NPR’s “The Diane Rehm Show” about the president-elect’s business interests. “We’re going to have to think up a whole new approach.”
Donald Trump has plenty of time to meet with Kanye West, tweet about SNL, go on a victory tour, and produce the “Celebrity Apprentice.” He does not have time to attend intelligence briefings, release his taxes, or hold press conferences.
The hotel lease includes a standard GSA provision barring members of Congress or other elected federal officials – such as the president – from having any part of it.
Donald Trump hasn’t been sworn in yet, but he is already making decisions and issuing statements to world leaders that radically depart from American foreign policy, all to the benefit of his family’s corporate empire.
Legal experts say that Trump’s vague Twitter announcement does little to address the potential conflicts, and any plan short of Trump completely selling his interests will leave the window open for an ethical mess.
Micromanaging is not necessarily a recipe for disaster – presidents like Abraham Lincoln and Barack Obama gained reputations as micromanagers. However, a micromanager with a lack of any government experience is a potentially toxic combination.
“OGE is delighted that you’ve decided to divest your businesses. Right decision!” one tweet said. “We told your counsel we’d sing your praises if you divested, we meant it.”
If Trump does not put his businesses in a true blind trust, how will we know if he is even violating the Emoluments Clause? Because of limited financial-disclosure requirements, we might not.
Donald Trump spent Thanksgiving week leaking his potential cabinet picks, making Mitt Romney grovel, and turning down security briefings.
Nothing in the law would prevent Trump from running his conglomerate or even profiting from it while in office. Apart from annual financial reporting requirements, federal conflict-of-interest rules for government employees and members of Congress don’t apply to the president.
Trump’s limited talent pool is bad news for America, it is comedy gold for Seth Meyers, who takes “a closer look” at potential cabinet nominees Rick Perry and Ben Carson.
The government does not and should not function like a business. The public good cannot be reduced to profit and loss. Many of government’s functions are costly yet essential despite their great expense; think of national security, justice and education.
Evidently President-elect Trump believes he can disregard the ethical obligations that have bound his predecessors.
Between September 14 and Election Day, the networks only aired approximately seven minutes of stories about or at least mentioning a conflict of interest.
A review by McClatchy of the most recent financial disclosure statement by Trump shows that of the 564 companies on which he reported holding an executive position, at least 120 of them were tied to his business dealings abroad.
Trump will hand over his business dealings to his children — but his children are also serving on Trump’s White House transition team where they are in a position to choose the people who make regulatory decisions impacting the businesses.