GOP Congressman says Trump’s conflicts of interest are OK because George Washington kept his house

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) also incorrectly claimed Trump never really profited from government contracts.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) CREDIT: MSNBC
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) CREDIT: MSNBC

Donald Trump’s aides are reportedly floating the idea that instead of putting his considerable business assets and holdings into a blind trust — something other presidents have used to avoid conflicts of interest — he might put his funds into a not-actually-blind-at-all “half-blind trust.”

While ethics experts warn not divesting will likely create an unconstitutional conflict, Congressional Republicans are apparently not concerned.

Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK) said on Wednesday that he does not think Trump needs to disentangle himself. “To be fair to him, he’s not a guy who made his money out of doing business with the government, particularly,” he observed.

Cole added that he thinks Trump’s team is “trying to be careful,” because “opponents will try to put the worst aspersions” on anything he does. “I don’t expect the family to get out of a family business, for goodness sake. I mean, you read much history, George Washington was still pretty active in managing Mount Vernon when he was president of the United States.”

Washington’s Virginia estate was hardly comparable to Trump’s self-proclaimed $10 billion portfolio.


Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., who he’s indicated would oversee the Trump empire during his time in office, have played an active role in the presidential transition, creating a clear conflict of interest.


Additionally, Cole’s troubling suggestion that the only type of favoritism that government could show to businesses is through government contracts ignores the fact that Trump has apparently made millions of agreements with government entities including a Central Park carousel, a municipal golf course, two skating rinks he operates for the city of New York, and a Washington, D.C. hotel he operates under an agreement with the federal government.

ThinkProgress reported this week that Trump Organization officials have pressured foreign government to holds events at Trump’s D.C. hotel. The Constitution prohibits presidents from receiving payments from foreign governments, putting Trump in a position to violate it on his first day in office unless he divests.