Throughout the campaign, candidate Donald Trump downplayed any concerns about how he would deal with his massive corporate holdings should he be elected president, promising to give them to his kids and stop caring about them. Now that he is President-elect Donald Trump, the conflicts of interest have already gotten more problematic.
Asked back in January whether he’d put his assets in a blind trust to “disentangle” himself from his business and money “and prioritize America’s interests first,” Trump said he’d hand over control to his three oldest children and his executives.
“If I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company. It’s peanuts,” he explained. “I have Ivanka, and Eric, and Don sitting there. Run the company kids, have a good time.”
While admitting that he wasn’t sure if that would make it a blind trust, Trump promised, “I wouldn’t ever be involved because I wouldn’t care about anything but our country, anything.”
Ethics experts told ThinkProgress in June that this could cause enormous conflicts of interests. Stuart C. Gilman, a longtime employee at the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) who now advises countries around the globe on anti-corruption efforts, explained that if the U.S. government under Trump gave a contract to a company in which he has holdings, he would have a clear financial interest: “His children are his representatives, he has full knowledge of where his interests and holdings are. If I were [a competitor company], I’d sue the hell out of them.” Virtually every federal contract, he suggested, could be challenged in court and he could be subject to an unending stream of civil suits.
On Friday, Reuters reported that management of the Trump Organization is about to be transferred to Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump, as he claimed. Trump lawyer Michael Cohen claimed Thursday that this would be a “blind trust”; however, there would be nothing actually blind about it.
BREAKING: Trump Organization planning for an immediate transfer of management, business portfolio to children Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric
— Reuters Politics (@ReutersPolitics) November 11, 2016
More problematic was another announcement made Friday: In addition to taking over the Trump Organization, the trio will also be helping to set up the Trump administration. Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric Trump were named members of the Trump transition team executive committee, giving them a key role in shaping policy for both his corporation and his government.
Government watchdogs were quick to criticize these moves, telling Politico that the conflicts of interest are “unprecedented” and the notion “that he’s going to have his family run the businesses and that will address his conflict-of-interest problems is a joke.” Even the Russian government-funded RT called the arrangement a “quagmire of conflict of interest.”
Politico also noted that Trump’s official transition website biography, greatagain.gov, reads like an advertisement for his companies — noting that “Trump organization owns some of the world’s top properties.” It also quoted language, apparently since removed, that boasted of his “prestigious addresses” and “premier golf clubs.”