This week has been filled with so many incredible stories revolving around President-elect Donald Trump, that one scarcely knows where to begin.
Let’s concentrate on Trump’s press conference held on Wednesday, January 11th. Surrounded by hundreds of empty folders, Trump outlined his long-promised plan on how he plans to handle any potential conflicts of interest among his numerous businesses and running the country. Boiled down to its essentials, Trump’s two sons will run the business, along with the advice of a “blind trust advisor.” They promise not to talk about the business with Daddy.
In total contrast with steps taken by previous Presidents and incoming members of his own Cabinet, this is not a blind trust. It is not even a near-sighted one. Within hours of this press conference, Walter M. Shaub, Jr., the Director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics gave a talk at the Brookings Institute on Trump’s proposed plan. He remarks were direct and devastating. [see link here for full-text http://bit.ly/2jwPsq9]
Among Director Shaub’s comments “We can’t risk the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for profit. That’s why I was glad in November when the President-elect tweeted that he wanted to, as he put it “in no way have a conflict of interest” with his businesses. Unfortunately, his current plan cannot achieve that goal.” This is obvious to anyone with even half a functioning brain.
He goes on to say “I think Politico called this a “half-blind” trust but is not even halfway blind. The only thing this has in common with a blind trust is the label “trust.” “The idea of limiting direct communication about the business is wholly inadequate. That’s not how a blind trust works. There’s not supposed to be any information at all.”
But Director Shaub does offer a solution. “Now, before anyone is too critical of the plan the President-elect announced, let’s all remember there’s still time to build on that plan and come up with something that will resolve his conflicts of interest.” The rest of his speech is equally tough but fair about Trump’s plan and the steps that can be taken to resolve his problems.
The Office of Government Ethics is an independent agency charged with “Providing leadership in the executive branch to prevent conflicts of interest.” Since Congress passed Ethics in Government Act in 1978 following the Watergate scandal every President ranging from Jimmy Carter to Barack Obama has worked with it to prevent even the appearance of conflicts of interest.
In a normal, rational world, one would expect that Congress would be calling on President-elect Trump to answer the questions raised by Director Shaub on his business dealings. Instead, we have Rep Jason Chaffetz (R. Utah), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform demanding that the Director appears before his committee to answer for his criticism of Trump’s plan. This is the same Rep. Chaffetz who supported Trump, then unsupported him after the Access Hollywood tapes, then supported Trump again. However, it now appears that the lunatics have taken over the asylum.
By attacking the integrity of an independent government on ethics in order to somehow provide cover for Trump’s illegitimate plan to handle his personal conflicts of interest, the Republican Party once again shows the American people that they definitely put party above country. This tactic may play in the short term, but the voters are not going to forget this when the 2018 mid-term elections come around.