It didn’t take long for President-elect Trump to show us the difference between what he said during his campaign and what he says now.
During the campaign, Trump called President Obama “incompetent.”
In last week’s Oval Office meeting, Trump now calls Obama, “a very good man.”
In the Oval Office, Trump now says, he would seek Obama’s “counsel.”
(Why would Trump seek the guidance of someone he believes is stupid, incompetent and the founder of ISIS?)
Last Sunday (Nov. 13), Trump was interviewed on 60 Minutes where, just three days after he won the election for the highest office in the land, the litany of inconsistencies continued.
On President Obama: “I found him to be terrific. I found him to be — very smart…”
During the campaign, Trump vowed to deport around 11 million undocumented individuals. “You’re going to have a deportation force,” he told Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski, “and you’re going to do it humanely.”
On 60 Minutes, Trump now says, “What we are going to do is get the people that are criminal and have criminal records, gang members, drug dealers, we have a lot of these people, probably two million, it could be even three million, we are getting them out of our country or we are going to incarcerate.”
However, the biggest issue that has received far less attention during the campaign was Trump’s statement that his children, Ivanka, Donald, Jr., Eric and Tiffany Trump would run the family business.
“Mr. Trump,” The New York Times writes (Nov. 15), has said he will eliminate ethical concerns by turning the management of his company over to his children, an arrangement he has referred to as a blind trust.”
Clearly, Trump does not know the definition of a “blind trust.”
According to Congressional Research.com, “The trust is considered ‘blind’ because eventually, through the sale of transferred assets and the purchase of new ones, the public officer will be shielded from knowledge of the identity of the specific assets in the trust.”
I don’t think I’m off-base in assuming that Trump’s children will have frequent access to their father during the next four years.
This is, without a doubt, the greatest conflict of interest facing a man whose holdings we know little about. (Remember, he has not released his taxes, apparently under the longest “routine” audit in the history of the IRS.)
“ ‘To say that his children running his businesses is the equivalent of a blind trust — there is simply no credibility in that claim,’ said Matthew T. Sanderson, a Washington lawyer and Republican who has worked on the presidential campaigns of John McCain, Rand Paul and Rick Perry. ‘Yes, the American public elected him knowing he has these assets, but unless he deals with this properly there will just be a steady trickle of these conflict-of-interest stories, and it could be a drag on his presidency.’ ”
Problematic examples already exist for the President-elect:
“The Trump International,” The Times continues, “operates out of the Old Post Office Building, which the federal government owns. That means Mr. Trump will be appointing the head of the General Services Administration, which manages the property, while his children will be running a hotel that has tens of millions of dollars in ties with the agency.
“He also will oversee the National Labor Relations Board while it decides union disputes involving any of his hotels. A week before the election, the board ruled against Mr. Trump’s hotel in a case in Las Vegas. …
“A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump’s company said in a statement that the Trump Organization was already working to address possible conflicts.
“ ‘We are in the process of vetting various structures with the goal of the immediate transfer of management of the Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump along with a team of highly skilled executives,’ the statement said. ‘This is a top priority at the organization, and the structure that is ultimately selected will comply with all applicable rules and regulations.’ ”
And that’s the problem. While ethics rules specify that members of Congress must place holdings in a “blind trust,” two individuals are exempt: The President and Vice-President.
With Trump’s children already a part of his transition team and more than likely to have access to him throughout his tenure as president, are we to expect that there will be no discussion regarding Trump’s various business enterprises?
This is the same individual who, on the campaign trail, railed against Secretary Clinton on “pay-for-play.”
On September 5th of this year, Breitbart (which was run by Trump’s campaign chair, Steve Bannon) writes: “ ‘Given the repeated examples of Clinton Foundation donors and officials receiving access and favors from Hillary Clinton’s State Department, what she is proposing is to essentially plant a giant “for sale” sign on the White House lawn,’ said the statement from campaign spokesman Jason Miller.”
“Perhaps most troubling for Mr. Trump,” The Times continues, “several ethics lawyers said, is a relatively obscure provision of the Constitution, called the Emoluments Clause, which prohibits any government official from taking payments or gifts from a foreign government, or even from sharing in profits in a company that has financial ties to a foreign government.
“Mr. Trump has had business deals with foreign governments or individuals with apparent ties to foreign governments, including multimillion-dollar real estate arrangements in Azerbaijan and Uruguay. His children have frequently traveled abroad to promote the Trump brand, making trips to Canada, the United Arab Emirates and Scotland. Closer to home, the Bank of China is a tenant in Trump Tower and is a lender for another building in Midtown Manhattan where Mr. Trump has a significant partnership interest.
“ ‘Doing business with a foreign corporation, be it in Azerbaijan, Turkey or Russia, if is it owned in part or controlled by a foreign government — any benefit that would accrue to Mr. Trump could well be a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution,’ said Kenneth A. Gross, a political ethics and compliance lawyer in Washington.”
However, none of this, zero, has any impact on Trump supporters.
When asked by Republican Strategist and pollster, Frank Luntz, about the many issues surrounding Trump, one woman responded, “We’re not electing a Sunday school teacher.”
True enough. But we are electing someone to the highest office in the land and Americans should expect and deserve someone to enter that office without any conflicts of interest. Trump should, in fact, be held to the same standard that his campaign held Secretary Clinton to.
This isn’t going away any time soon.