The unfolding scandal involving National Security Adviser Michael Flynn is just the first of many scandals we can expect from the Trump presidency.
President Trump’s stubborn refusal to follow the lead of his predecessors for the past four decades and dispose of the ownership of his global business enterprises has created intolerable conflicts of interest and Emoluments Clause problems. Trump has made it impossible to distinguish between when his decisions are being made on behalf of the American people and when they are being made on behalf of his business holdings.
For example, Donald Trump’s name is a critical brand for his global business enterprises and is licensed for fees all over the world. Trump has been trying for a decade, without success, to get name trademark rights in China for construction services, the Associated Press reported.
Lo and behold, soon after Trump became president, China changed its mind and Trump is scheduled to get the trademark, according to AP. Many more Trump trademark applications are currently pending in China or will come up for renewal during Trump’s presidency.
This is precisely why it’s so dangerous that Trump has refused to give up ownership of his businesses. Donald Trump’s businesses are pursuing financial benefits from the Chinese government at the same time that President Trump is making decisions about U.S./China relations. This is indefensible and potentially corrupting.
Whether or not these trademarks violate the Emoluments Clause, they are extremely valuable to the Trump businesses. This represents the kind of blatant conflicts of interest that undermine the integrity and credibility of the presidency and the interests of the American people, and result in scandals.
Another example: Trump has appointed multibillionaire Carl Icahn and multimillionaire Rudy Guiliani as “special advisers” to the president.
Icahn is a well-known corporate raider, activist investor and Wall Street trader and is strongly opposed to government regulation. Since he is not a formal member of the government, he is now in a position, as Trump’s “special adviser” on regulations, to know before the public does what moves his friend President Trump may make on eliminating various regulations and to use this inside information to increase his vast wealth.
Guiliani is the CEO of an international security consulting firm and was a strong supporter of Trump in the presidential campaign. He is also not a formal member of the government, and, as Trump’s “special adviser” on cybersecurity, he is in a position to know before the public does what moves the president plans to make on cybersecurity issues and to use this inside information to increase his wealth.
These are inherent conflicts of interest that Trump has created without the slightest bit of concern and that create opportunities for improper, substantial financial benefits for his friends and supporters.
Another example: Trump told a meeting of business leaders that he was going to cut “a lot out of Dodd-Frank [banking regulations], because frankly I have so many people, friends of mine, that have nice businesses and they can’t borrow money.” A mindset that bases national policy on helping his wealthy business friends is a dangerous mindset when it comes to the interests of the American people. It is a mindset that also opens the door for scandals.
Trump’s blindness to the fundamental problem of using public office for personal gain helped lead to his obtaining a majority disapproval rating from the American people just eight days into his presidency, faster than any other president since the Gallup Poll started tracking these numbers in 1945.
The Trump presidency is headed for multiple scandals unless the president divests his ownership of his global business enterprises and makes fundamental changes in his approach to governing the country.