Trump filed documents with the FEC over the summer that revealed he owed at least $315 million to ten entities. This debt, some of which is personally guaranteed by him, was a clear conflict. As president, Trump will be responsible for regulating entities that he also owes money to. Worse, these debts are frequently renegotiated, giving these companies leverage over Trump in the regulatory process.
A report this afternoon from the Wall Street Journal, however, revealed that Trump’s disclosure was the tip of the iceberg. The FEC required Trump only to report debt from entities he fully controls. The disclosure left out “more than $1.5 billion lent to partnerships that are 30%-owned by him.” That debt has been securitized and is owed to at least 150 financial entities.
These financial institutions include many firms that are under the scrutiny of the federal agencies that Trump will soon control. Wells Fargo, for example, which services over $900 million in loans connected to Trump, “is currently facing scrutiny from federal regulators surrounding its fraudulent sales practices and other issues.”
Trump will soon appoint the top regulators who will be responsible for scrutinizing the bank’s conduct.
A press conference that was scheduled to address Trump’s numerous conflict of interest was scheduled for December and then canceled. Another press conference has been scheduled for January 11, although it appears not to be exclusively focused on his business activities.
Thus far, Trump has pledged to retain full ownership over his business empire. His plan to simply hand control over to his sons has been derided as glaringly insufficient. The Office of Government Ethics and other ethics experts have said that the only way for Trump to avoid conflicts is to sell his businesses and place the proceeds in a blind trust.
Instead, Trump is actively soliciting foreign governments to patronize his new Washington DC hotel. Receiving payments from foreign governments is unconstitutional, and Trump currently receives such payments from a number of sources. Legal experts from both sides of the aisle believe that, absent full divestment, Trump will violate the constitution on his first day in office.