While running Trump’s business, Trump’s sons talk political strategy with GOP leaders

Meeting in Washington raises ethical questions about conflicts of interest for sons handling father’s business dealings.

Donald Trump Jr., second from right, and Eric Trump get on an escalator in the lobby of Trump Tower, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci
Donald Trump Jr., second from right, and Eric Trump get on an escalator in the lobby of Trump Tower, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016, in New York. CREDIT: AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

Despite President Donald Trump’s pledge to maintain a firewall between his his administration and his businesses by placing his sons in charge of the Trump empire, new reports have surfaced that Donald Jr. and Eric Trump are ramping up their engagement with the Republican Party’s national political operation to discuss political strategy.

Trump’s sons, along with Eric Trump’s wife, Lara, met privately earlier this week with GOP leaders to “share their concerns and outlook” according to a Washington Post story detailing their visit to the Republican National Committee’s headquarters in Washington.

Their visit to the RNC raised red flags among two prominent Republicans who were cited by the Post wondering “whether it was appropriate for the president’s sons, who run the Trump family real estate business, to be highly involved in discussing the party’s strategy and resources.”

Since their father took office, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump have fundraised for Republicans, rallied their father’s supporters in advance of his 2020 presidential bid, and defended their father on social media, while at the same time managing their father’s empire, according to a story in Politico.

Trump’s sons have said they are abiding by the ethics arrangement that precludes them from discussing the family business with their father, who in turn is not supposed to discuss government business with his sons or the company’s executives, the Politico story stated. Eric Trump, however, said in a March interview with Forbes that he and his father were very close, and that he would give his dad business profitability updates every quarter.

Two people familiar with the RNC meeting told the Post that it was appropriate for the president’s sons and daughter-in-law to meet with Republican leaders and “offer their perspective on what would be most helpful to President Trump ahead of the 2018 midterm elections and the 2020 presidential race.”

But ethics experts told The Atlantic in a story published earlier this week that the steps Trump has taken so far to remove himself from the day-to-day operations of his organization has done little to resolve issues of conflict and influence.

As long as Trump continues to profit from his business empire — which he does whether or not he is nominally in charge — they say, the possibility that outside actors will attempt to affect his policies by plumping up his pocketbook will remain very much in play,” wrote Jeremy Venook in The Atlantic.

Norm Eisen, who served as President Obama’s ethics lawyer and has openly criticized Trump’s business arrangements, told Politico last March that as long as President Trump maintains ownership of his companies while he serves in the White House, his family will be in an ethical quagmire.

“This is an illustration of the problem that’s existed from the beginning. There are no boundaries here,” said Eisen.