Monday, November 21, 2016

Trump Normalization Watch (conflict of interest)

Stephen Griffin

More substantive articles are appearing about Trump's enormous conflict of interest problems.  To my mind, the WaPo has the best coverage, with a major story here; Jennifer Rubin's follow up on what was said on the Sunday programs; and Trevor Potter's essential analysis.  So, three observations: spokespeople for Trump are using the (nonexistent) law as a shield against what is really a political-policy problem, albeit one that might verge on the constitutional (in my estimation they are bluffing, they don't appear to have a strategy given that Trump almost certainly doesn't want to divest himself of ownership).  Second, the issue is indeed ownership not management, as Rubin points out.  Third, Trump and the GOP are perhaps concentrating too much in their statements on the possibility of "outbound" corruption (outbound, that is, from the Oval Office), wherein Trump makes a decision based on financial interest, rather than "inbound" corruption, in which a foreign power or entity directs financial benefits Trump's way in the hope of influencing American policy.  The only way to solve the latter is through divestiture of ownership.  And this is by no means a complete catalog of the difficulties -- there is also the "overhang" problem as federal officials attempt to make decisions in the ordinary course which will somehow affect Trump's financial interests without worrying about their future job security.

UPDATE: Adam Liptak has a good story today in the "failing" NYT on the emoluments clause.

FURTHER UPDATE: Trump was interviewed today by the NYT and pretty clearly, he does not want to sell his assets or use a blind trust.  We are probably headed to some sort of political showdown on the conflict of interest issue; if not, there could be a series of major corruption scandals extending through the Trump administration.

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