It’s no secret President-elect Donald Trump was going to bring unprecedented conflicts of interest with him to the White House; the question was how he would separate himself from his vast personal financial interests before taking office.
However, it seems Trump has taken the opposite approach — now using his new leverage with leaders near and far to benefit his business empire.
In a recent meeting with Nigel Farage, a British politician and member of the European parliament, Trump urged Farage and others present to oppose offshore wind farms, according to a New York Times report.
Trump has waged a long and, thus far, fruitless war against offshore wind in Scotland — namely, one project planned near his golf course in Aberdeenshire. In a 2012 letter to Scotland’s first minister Alex Salmond, Trump wrote, “With the reckless installation of these monsters, you will single-handedly have done more damage to Scotland than virtually any event in Scottish history.”
Trump has gone to court numerous times in an attempt to stop construction of the offshore wind farm, claiming it would ruin the views from his course. He even escalated the matter to Britain’s highest court, which ruled unanimously against him last year.
In June, the Swedish company backing the project confirmed it intended to move forward, despite Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, and Trump renewed his vow to fight it, calling the project an act of “public vandalism.”
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) November 12, 2016
Along with Farage (a far-right xenophobe and key figure in the Brexit movement who campaigned with Trump), the New York Times report named two other people present in the recent meeting: Arron Banks, an insurance executive and major financial backer of the Brexit campaign, and Andy Wigmore, a media consultant who ran communications for Leave.EU, one of the two groups that led the Brexit push.
Wigmore told the Times in an email that he and Banks would be “campaigning against wind farms in England, Scotland, and Wales.” While he claimed Banks had opposed wind farms in the past and the two had been looking into the issue, Wigmore said Trump “did suggest that we should campaign on it” and “spurred us in and we will be going for it.”
Trump has made no secret of his long-standing disdain for renewable energy, and wind turbines in particular. His October appearance on Herman Cain’s radio show included a tirade against wind power, which Trump claimed “kills all the birds.” He has also tweeted dozens of times about wind turbines, primarily how ugly he finds them.
Ugly industrial wind turbines are ruining the beauty of parts of the country–and have inefficient unreliable energy to boot.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 11, 2012
The meeting with Farage and others is not the only reported instance of Trump appearing to use his newfound stature to benefit his business empire, rather than separating himself from his personal wealth as previous presidents have done.
The Trump transition released a photo of his daughter Ivanka, who is expected to be named acting CEO of Trump’s companies, sitting in on a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. She also reportedly joined a recent call with Argentine President Mauricio Macri. The Washington Post reported that Trump’s new D.C. hotel is looking to benefit from the rush of foreign diplomats eager to gain access to the president-elect, hosting nearly 100 of them at a reception last week (a possible violation of the Constitution). Since winning the election, the New York Times reported that Trump also met with Indian developers who helped him gain access to the market in India and are eager to expand that relationship.
According to Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to the president-elect, people should worry less about these conflicts of interest, however, and focus more on the “sacrifice” he’s making.