Donald Trump sent out a series of tweets this morning to explain that “though I am not mandated to” (actually, he kinda is) “I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country.”
Strung together, the tweets said the following:
“I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!
“While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!”
It is well known that were Trump to remain in charge of his businesses (and as his recent activities since becoming president-elect have shown) he would be in violation of Article 1 Section 9 Clause 8 of the United States Constitution, the Emoluments Clause (or Foreign Emoluments Clause), which states,
“And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States] , shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
That was why earlier this month both Mike Pence and Reince Priebus insisted Trump would “leave his business life in the past.”
America had seen no sign that this was true until this morning’s barrage of tweets documenting what he seems to think of as a “good will gesture” rather than a legal requirement.
Trump is clearly struggling here to make it appear as though he is under no legal obligation to do precisely what the United States Constitution demands he do. He is under every legal obligation, under the law, to separate himself from his businesses.
He claims it is ‘visually important’ – and it is certainly that since people like to see a president who isn’t trying to profit from his office – but it is also a legal necessity, and it would appear that somebody finally got that point through to Trump.
In fact, Trump is bowing to pressure to do exactly what he has now agreed to do while trying to disguise the fact that sometimes, even Trump loses. Visually, at least.
Because, given the role Trump seems to intend his children to play in his administration, this move is unlikely to actually remove all conflicts of interest. He will still be free, for example, to promote his business empire. And just look at his pay-to-play inauguration.
And before you get too excited, it remains to be seen whether he will now see the presidency as an important enough task to bother with pesky little details like intelligence briefings.