Donald Trump is leveraging his new position as president-elect to empower his business empire — and he’s doing it publicly.
We’ve known for some time that Trump didn’t plan to actually resolve the unprecedented conflicts his far-flung business interests presented.
Instead of liquidating his assets and placing them in a Qualified Diversified Trust, as President Bush did, or investing in index funds and government bonds, as President Obama did, Trump has done nothing.
He’s waved away concerns about conflicts-of-interest, saying that he would just hand over control of his business interests to his children.
He called this a “blind trust” but it is actually the opposite. A blind trust is when you hand marketable assets over to a neutral third party to control. The contents of the trust, since they can be traded at any time by the administrator, are soon unknown to you. Trump knows what his assets are and says he is handing them to his children.
Immediately after Trump’s election, he named three of his adult children — Ivanka, Eric, and Donald Jr. — to his transition team. This means the same people running the Trump Organization will also be choosing the top officials in the Trump administration.
Now he is taking things a step further. In his first meeting with a head of state, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Trump invited his daughter Ivanka — who will likely serve as acting CEO of his companies — to participate.
Trump could have kept Ivanka’s participation private. Instead, his team handed out a photo featuring Ivanka.
Ivanka Trump sat in on her father's meeting today with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, per handout photo pic.twitter.com/tEbfYYeJFA
— Jennifer Epstein (@jeneps) November 18, 2016
Nepotism laws prohibit Ivanka from taking a formal role in the White House. But Trump is choosing to send a clear signal to Japan and the world — when you deal with Ivanka, you are dealing with someone who has my ear as president.
Let’s suppose one of Trump’s companies would like to open a hotel in Japan and is seeking permits. Would the Japanese government deny them and risk the ire of the President of the United States?
This doesn’t just apply to Japan. This is Trump’s first meeting with a head of state and Trump knows that this photo will be seen around the world. Any country doing business with the Trump organization will be very clear about Ivanka’s role.
Since Trump will retain ownership in his businesses, Ivanka’s success will mean money in Trump’s pocket.
The Trump transition did something similar when it leaked word that Trump had requested security clearances for Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr.
— The Situation Room (@CNNSitRoom) November 14, 2016
Trump later denied this report but at that point, it hardly mattered. The story was another way for the Trump transition to credential his children as integral to, not separate from, the Trump administration.
The president is supposed to represent the people’s interest — not his own. This is a core tenet of democracy. In just about a week, Trump has left hundreds of years of democratic tradition in tatters.