As President Donald Trump introduced Judge Neil Gorsuch as his choice to fill an opening on the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday night, his two adult sons, Eric and Donald Jr., sat nearby.
They both tweeted photos showing their perspective on the proceedings.
— Eric Trump (@EricTrump) February 1, 2017
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) February 1, 2017
Later in the evening, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), the Senate’s president pro tempore and a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, congratulated Eric and Donald Jr. on the “great pick” of Gorsuch, according to a CNN report. Their conversation was captured in a photo shared by a BuzzFeed reporter.
Sen. Hatch, Don Jr. and Eric pic.twitter.com/KeLsnimj7x
— Kate Nocera (@KateNocera) February 1, 2017
But Eric and Donald Jr. aren’t supposed to have any input on their father’s selection of a Supreme Court justice. Instead, they’re supposed to be independently managing their father’s business — a business the president has refused to divest from, despite the Constitution’s emoluments clause and advice from ethics experts who worked with Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
On Tuesday night, as has been the case on other occasions since the election, the message was clear: deal with Eric and Donald Jr., and you’re doing business with two people close to the president.
Eric and Donald Jr.’s appearance in the White House came a week after two reports emerged illustrating how Trump plans to profit off the presidency. The Trump Organization is reportedly doubling the initiation fee for its Mar-a-Lago resort — the place President Trump recently described as “the Winter White House” — to $200,000 (taxes and $14,000 annual dues not included). And Trump’s hotel-management company is reportedly planning “an ambitious expansion across the U.S.” that would triple the number of Trump-branded hotels in the country.
The Trump Organization also used an image of the Environmental Protection Agency’s building in an email advertising suites in the Washington, D.C. hotel that’s doing business with foreign governments.
Corruption is using public office for private gain. Look at the view used in this marketing email. It's corruption. pic.twitter.com/U2JcZVQnMT
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) February 1, 2017
Those developments raise conflict of interest questions every other modern president has avoided by either divesting from their business interests or placing their assets in a blind trust. And that’s not to mention the Constitutional issue raised by Trump maintaining ownership of the aforementioned D.C. hotel.
It is for these reasons that Walter Shaub, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, described the plan Trump laid out to address his conflicts of interest — in short, letting his kids run his business while retaining ownership — as “meaningless.”
“Stepping back from running his business is meaningless from a conflict-of-interest perspective,” Shaub told NBC. “The idea of setting up a trust to hold his operating businesses adds nothing to the equation. This is not a blind trust — it’s not even close.”