Eighty-one percent of voters say that while president, Donald Trump is likely to act in ways that benefit his personal business empire, according to a new Politico/Morning Consult poll.
The national poll surveyed 2,000 registered voters from December 8–11 about the unprecedented conflicts of interest that President-elect Trump is bringing with him to the Oval Office. Trump’s massive empire, with holdings and business deals around the world, is an unprecedented quagmire for U.S. democracy. And as Trump has yet to release his tax returns, the extent to which his business dealings are wound up in foreign interests is as-yet unknown. Since his election, Trump has repeatedly mixed his business with the business of the American people.
While the vast majority of voters agreed that Trump’s business interests will influence his actions, they were divided along partisan lines on whether that’s a good or bad thing.
Seventy-three percent of Republicans said it’s mainly a good thing for Trump’s businesses to influence his presidential decision-making. Seventy-three percent of Democrats, on the other hand, said it’s a bad thing.
Without breaking out political bias, voters were divided relatively evenly: Thirty-nine percent of voters overall thought that Trump being influenced by his businesses would be positive, while 44 percent thought it would be negative.
Voters also agreed that it is important for Trump to separate himself from his businesses. Seventy-nine percent said that Trump should remove himself from the operations of his businesses before inauguration. This agreement is shared by Republicans and Democrats: While a slightly higher percentage of Democrats said that Trump should separate himself from his businesses (86 percent), 76 percent of Republicans agreed.
Even in the event of Trump separating himself from his businesses, however, a majority of voters (69 percent) said he would still be likely to make decisions that helped his personal empire.
This could be because of the ambiguous nature of a separation. For Trump, a separation could mean removing himself from the day-to-day operations of his businesses, which would still allow him to be aware of federal policies that could affect his bottom line — or it could mean a true divestment, which would involve placing his assets into a blind trust so he would no longer know what he has and how his policies could affect it.
According to experts, unless Trump takes the latter approach, he will bring unprecedented conflicts to the White House and violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause on his first day in office.
Half of voters say that Trump should fully divest from his businesses and place his assets in a blind trust.
Trump was slated to announce his plans to extricate himself from his businesses and the vast conflicts of interest they pose on December 15th. Instead, he announced on Monday that he is delaying the press conference until January — after the Electoral College vote that will formally ensconce him as President-elect.
On Twitter, Trump briefly reiterated a plan aligning with his previous statements — saying that he would turn over his business to his adult sons and adding that “no new deals” will be made while he’s the president.
Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s chief ethics counsel, responded that Trump’s plan was “nonsense.” Painter previously told ThinkProgress that the Trump business’ dealings with foreign governments is a clear violation of the Emoluments clause, putting Trump in direct violation of the constitution.
"No new deals" is nonsense. It is urgent for Mr. Trump to resolve emoluments issue before electoral college vote. https://t.co/54h4mxqoue
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) December 13, 2016
The only solution, according to Painter, is either full divestment or impeachment.