Senate Democrats are using the day when Donald Trump was supposed to hold his press conference explaining how is going to separate himself from his business conflicts of interest to announce legislation that would require the president and vice-president election to publicly disclose and divest all conflicts of interest.
The bill co-sponsored by Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ben Cardin (D-MD, Chris Coons (D-DE), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) turns compliance with the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause into law by:
• Requiring the President, Vice President, their spouses, and minor or dependent children to divest all interests that create financial conflicts of interest by selling these assets and placing the proceeds in a true blind trust. The trust will be managed by an independent trustee who will oversee the sale of assets and place the proceeds in conflicts-free holdings;
• Adopting a sense of the Congress that the President’s violation of financial conflicts of interest laws or the ethics requirements that apply to executive branch employees constitute a high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution; and
• Prohibiting Presidential appointees from participating in matters that directly involve the financial interests of the President, the President’s spouse, or businesses controlled by the
President or the President’s spouse.
The bill will be introduced when the Senate comes back into session in January.
“The American people deserve to know that the President of the United States is working to do what’s best for the country – not using his office to do what’s best for himself and his businesses,” said Senator Warren. “The only way for President-elect Trump to truly eliminate conflicts-of-interest is to divest his financial interests and place them in a blind trust. This has been the standard for previous presidents, and our bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same.”
The problem for Senate Democrats is that Senate Republicans have shown less than zero interest in dealing with Trump’s many conflicts of interest. House and Senate Republicans appear willing to turn a blind eye to potential Executive Branch corruption as a tradeoff for partisan control of the White House.
In an interview with CNBC, Speaker of the House Rep. Paul Ryan said that he is not concerned at all with Trump’s conflicts of interest, “This is not what I’m concerned about in Congress. I have every bit of confidence he’s going to get himself right with moving from being the business guy that he is to the president he’s going to become.”
Republicans aren’t concerned, but the American people are. A recent Bloomberg poll found that two-thirds of respondents said that Trump needs to choose between being a businessman or president.
Sen. Chris Coons said that Trump is refusing to follow the ethical precedent set by previous presidents, “Our President-elect has significantly greater risk of business and financial conflicts of interest than any other president, yet has so far refused to follow the precedent set by previous presidents. To this day, President-elect Trump has refused to address his conflicts of interest. His continued delay in taking such steps is deeply troubling and calls into question his commitment to two fundamental responsibilities: running an open, transparent White House and fully severing his business ties before taking office. That’s why Congress must act promptly to pass this legislation that will require the President to divest their financial interests and place the proceeds in a blind trust. The presidency is a full-time job with only one client: the American people.”
If Congressional Republicans continue to ignore Trump’s conflicts of interest, they will be responsible for any crimes committed by Trump and his administration.
Trump has a duty to divest his interests, and if he doesn’t Republicans in Congress will deserve any blame they get for the enablement of corruption.