STATEMENT: CAP’s Liz Kennedy on President-Elect Trump’s Continued Conflict of Interest Issues

Washington, D.C. — Today, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he would turn his business over to his sons. The U.S. Office of Government Ethics, which oversees the executive branch, has already written that “transferring operational control of a company to one’s children would not constitute the establishment of a qualified blind trust” or eliminate conflicts of interest. Reacting to the news, Center for American Progress Director of Democracy and Government Reform Liz Kennedy issued the following statement regarding continued conflict of interest issues:

President-elect Trump’s conflicts of interest continue to be dangerous, unprecedented, and unconstitutional. Turning his business over to his sons fails to protect the office of the presidency and the interests of the American people. By maintaining ownership of the Trump Organization, the president-elect is allowing those seeking access to and influence with his administration to use his businesses as a path to curry favor with him, given that he knows what government actions will affect the businesses that he still owns. The United States of America has always held itself to a higher standard than foreign kleptocracies where government leaders are enriched through their families at the public’s expense, and it must continue to do so.

For decades, there has been no question that an individual fit to serve as the president of the United States would abide by our traditions and fully divest any financial holdings that present conflicts of interest and open the door to corruption. President-elect Trump has turned his back on that proud tradition. He continues to keep the American public in the dark about the extent of his conflicts, since he has never released his tax returns, and he fails to live up to the examples of all of his predecessors, threatening the integrity of our government, our national sovereignty, and our national security. Furthermore, this behavior is setting the standard of lax adherence to decades-old traditions around ethics that is currently being exhibited by other cabinet nominees. We will need to exercise constant vigilance to track the ways in which our next president will be profiting off the presidency.

While the president is not technically bound by the criminal conflicts of interest statute, he is subject to other laws prohibiting, for example, illegal gratuities, insider trading, bribery, and foreign corrupt practices. He is also subject to the U.S. Constitution and its prohibition on foreign and domestic payments to the president, otherwise known as emoluments.

According to recent Hart Research Associates polling for the Center for American Progress Action Fund, 71 percent of Americans surveyed think that President-elect Trump should not receive payments from foreign governments through his companies while president, and Trump voters agree by 53 percent to 31 percent. Furthermore, a 54 percent majority of all voters surveyed want Congress to take action to prevent Trump from receiving payments from foreign governments while serving as president. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has introduced the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017, a bill which would do that. CAP believes Congress should take swift action to pass the legislation.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Tanya Arditi at tarditi@americanprogress.org or 202.741.6258.