Trump postpones press conference on business conflicts until after Electoral College meets

Bait and switch.

CREDIT: Screenshot
CREDIT: Screenshot

To much fanfare, Donald Trump announced on November 30 that he would hold a press conference on December 15 to discuss how he would “be leaving my great business in total.”

That press conference has now been postponed until at least January. Trump officials provided no real explanation for the postponement, other than Trump’s busy schedule.

The delay means that the Electoral College will vote — and likely officially make Trump the next president — before Trump provides any information about how he plans to mitigate his business conflicts.

In his public statements, Trump has indicated that he plans on retaining full ownership over his businesses, while turning over day-to-day management to his adult children. From an ethical and legal perspective, however, this arrangement with his children would be meaningless.

Trump, if he retains ownership of his businesses, would receive a stream of payments from foreign governments — which is a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution.

Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, the Chief Ethics Counsels for George W. Bush and Barack Obama respectively, have said that the only way for Trump to avoid violating the Constitution is to sell his business in total and to put the proceeds in a blind trust.

The view that total divestment is the only way to avoid an illegal conflict has also endorsed by the Office of Government Ethics.

Trump is actively seeking money from foreign governments, including hosting a party encouraging diplomats to stay at his new D.C. hotel. He’s blurred the line between his business and his administration, naming three of his children to the transition team.

Larry Tribe, one of the nation’s most respected Constitutional scholars, believes that, absent total divestment, the Electoral College should reject Trump. Painter and Eisen agree.

Now, the Electoral College will vote without knowing anything about Trump’s plans for his businesses.

In the meantime, Trump’s substance-free tweets have helped him burn two weeks. Anytime the transition was asked about conflicts, it used the upcoming press conference to deflect the issue.

The tweets have also generated a slew of positive, inaccurate headlines.

Trump has given no indication he will “leave” or “quit” his business. From a legal and ethical perspective, the key issue is ownership, not management.

Trump’s decision to delay the press conference will appear on page A20 of tomorrow’s New York Times.

The constitutional prohibition against payments from foreign governments to a president is not frivolous. The founders were attempting to ensure that a president’s loyalty would be to the American people alone.

Trump is eager to change the subject, announcing on Twitter that he would name his choice for Secretary of State on Tuesday.

No matter whom Trump chooses for Secretary of State, it will not resolve his unconstitutional conflicts of interest. Members of the Electoral College will now have to exercise their vote without any idea of Trump’s plans.