Kellyanne Conway, a senior adviser to President-elect Trump, said people should focus less on Trump’s conflict-of-interest and more on the “sacrifice” he’s making to his business career by becoming president.
Trump, however, doesn’t seem to be ready to sacrifice anything.
At the tail-end of her interview on Fox & Friends Monday morning, host Brian Kilmeade asked Conway whether she agreed that the Trumps “have to work out where the business starts and the presidency starts.” Trump’s web of business investments, hotel properties and dealings with foreign investors “will create conflicts of interest of unprecedented magnitude,” according to an open letter from a group of open-government watchdogs.
Conway waived off the concerns on Monday.
“Oh well sure. But they are doing that…they have experts behind the scenes doing that, the adult children who already help him run that business and who obviously will be the stewards in their father’s absence are on top of that,” Conway said.
“It’s a unique situation to have such a successful a businessman that has so many holdings ascend to the oval office. But I also want people to see what a sacrifice it is. He has invested tens of millions of dollars and other deals have had to wait, because he’s doing this. But his adult children are right there, they’re already his colleagues, he’s already been their mentor and they’re already chief executives there.”
Unlike previous presidents, who have placed their assets in index funds or a blind trust, Trump has done nothing to separate himself from his business interests as he assumes control of the government. He’s previously said he would turn his businesses over to his children.
Trump has referred to this arrangement as a “blind trust” but it’s actually the opposite. In a real blind trust, in a neutral party takes control of marketable assets. Because the administrator can trade these assets away at anytime, the contents of the trust are soon unknown.
Trump, however, knows what his assets are, and says he’s giving them to his children — hardly a neutral party. As Conway says, he has been their mentor — and not only are they his business colleagues, he’s made them part of his transition as well.
Trump gave his children — supposedly the new stewards of his personal empire — high-profile positions on his transition team. The same people shaping his administration are also the ones leading his business empire. And he’s not hiding this web of conflicts — instead the Trump team is flaunting it.
On November 17th, the Trump team handed out a photograph of Ivanka Trump, likely the new CEO of the Trump empire, sitting in on a diplomatic meeting with the Prime Minister of Japan. The photograph sends a message to Trump’s business cohort: Dealing with Ivanka is dealing with someone who has the power of the American presidency behind her.
And foreign diplomats — and the Trump businesses — have taken note. On Friday, the Washington Post reported that over 100 foreign diplomats gathered at Trump’s new downtown D.C. hotel to listen to sales pitches and admire the new accommodations. Some of them told the Post that it was an explicit attempt to curry favor with the president-elect.
Nor has Trump himself stopped his business dealings. Last week, Trump met with three Indian businessmen who are building a Trump-branded luxury apartment complex. The men told Indian media that they discussed expanding their partnership with the Trump organization now that Trump will be the next American president.
Like many of Trump’s business ventures, his involvement in the deal in India is one of branding: For a fee, he lets other developers use his name. Now that he’s President, that name is likely even more valuable.
And since Trump isn’t actually relinquishing control of his businesses, all of this means that rather than sacrifice, Trump is poised to use the presidency for his personal profit.
That’s a huge problem — both for free Democracy, and for the constitution. According to an exclusive ThinkProgress interview with Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer, Trump is headed for a major violation of the constitution on his first day in office.
The only solution? Actual divestment from his business, said Painter.