Despite Pledge Trump Is Expanding His Business Interests Internationally

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*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*

Once upon a time in America, there used to be an unwritten rule that no-one is above the law, but that rule is fundamentally lost on the rich, the connected, and the politically powerful. It is certainly lost on Donald Trump because it appears there is no law, regulation, or statute that he believes applies to him in the pursuit of profits. It is why there are plenty of Americans who believe that Trump will be in violation of the U.S. Constitution and more than one federal statute surrounding conflicts of interest the minute he is sworn in office; that belief has been borne out to be a reality unless something changes drastically tomorrow.

Instead of following the advice of his Republican cheerleaders at the Wall Street Journal to quickly liquidate all of his holdings or be perpetually accused of conflicts of interest, Trump decided he is too smart to be held to law and convention. The WSJ editors wrote, “If Mr. Trump doesn’t liquidate, he will be accused of a pecuniary motive any time he takes a policy position.” So what does Trump do? He revealed a phony plan, including pledging, during a televised press conference-turned carnival, that there would be no new or pending international business deals on his or the Trump organization’s behalf. Of course, he was lying, but the point is not his pathological lying, but his belief that no law or statute applies to Trump; including ethics or Constitutional laws.

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First Trump rejected a long-standing anti-nepotism law as ‘not applicable’ and appointed his son-in-law as a White House advisor. Trump may acknowledge that federal anti-nepotism rules actually exist, but they just do not apply to the likes of a Trump any more than the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. To get an idea of how Trump intends on violating no small number of laws, even though 18 U.S.C. § 3110 bans federal officials from appointing their relatives, Trumps remarkably claimed a president is not a federal official. The law states:

A public official may not appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, promotion, or advancement, in or to a civilian position in the agency in which he is serving or over which he exercises jurisdiction or control any individual who is a relative of the public official.”

The law is clear, but not to Trump. The Trumps claims that the U.S. Code does not apply to him because the White House and the Executive branch of government are not really government agencies and therefore not adhering to the U.S. Code is perfectly legal for Donald Trump. Of course, Trump is just making up his own rules because he knows exactly what anti-nepotism means and that appointing another know-nothing relative is illegal, but not for him.

Now, after Trump revealed to the press and American people last week that he had no intention of divesting his vast business holdings despite wise counsel from friends and detractors alike, his organization announced a major international deal in Scotland. This is in spite of promising that he would cease and desist from any “new or pending international business deals.” He did, in fact, say that “there would be no new or pending international deals struck by the Trump Organization” which is Donald J. Trump.

As is the case about 96 percent of the time, Donald J. Trump lied at the press conference. Apparently, Trump thinks ethics loopholes are whatever he dreams up to expand his business holdings and the “pending deal” in Scotland doesn’t count as a “pending international business deal” to profit Donald J. Trump. Trump officials said the new plans for the Trump International Golf Course Scotland, “likely to immediately involve extending its boutique hotel and building a second 18-hole golf course,” did not contradict his press-conference promise a week ago to not pursue any new or “pending” deals outside the United States.

Someone in Trump-land told The Guardian that “Implementing future phasing of existing properties does not constitute a new transaction so we intend to proceed” with a new 450-room five-star hotel, timeshare complex and private housing estate on existing properties. This would “greatly increase the value to Trump of an investment on which Trump originally boasted he would spend up to £1 billion.”

No matter how one assesses this bovine excrement excuse from Trump’s organization, it is part of a “pending international deal” that will “greatly increase value to Trump;” in any universe that is conflict of interest and profiting from an international deal while in office. According to Richard Painter, a former White House chief ethics adviser to George W Bush, this extra investment is a “perfect example” of the clear conflicts of interest between Trump’s newfound authority as incoming president and his family’s business interests.

Mr. Painter also said, “He’s using language which is ambiguous. It clearly illustrates that around the world, he will just simply expand around the various [existing] holdings and as they continue to expand, the conflicts of interest expand.” It is also a revelation that going forward, all Trump has to do is claim that any deal “arising from any ‘existing’ part of his businesses” does not count so long as someone is willing to say the deal has been in the works before Trump’s swearing in. Any deals that are “in the works” but not yet started are the precise definition of “pending deals” that Trump promised to stay away from.

As a DNC senior advisor rightly said, “This confirms that Donald Trump’s plan to address his enormous conflicts of interests is one big joke on the American people.” That is true, except the only person laughing at the law is Donald J. Trump and no-one is going to hold him to account because Republicans own all three branches of government; he will be laughing all the way to the bank and thumbing his nose at the law like a common criminal posing as CEO of making America great.