Donald Trump’s behavior since the election raises serious issues of corruption. Encourage electors to vote for someone else unless they are resolved before December 19.
When the idea of asking electors to vote for someone other than Donald Trump surfaced in the days immediately following the election, I considered it futile and dangerous. Futile because Republican electors were chosen on the basis of voting for the Republican candidate. Dangerous because of the precedent it would set that electors could do as they pleased, rather than following the will of the voters. Two days after the election, I wrote this on Facebook:
So one of the things I’m seeing a lot of this morning is the idea that the Electoral College doesn’t have to choose Trump. Technically, that is true.
But it would be a terrible thing for democracy, unless and this is a big unless, before they vote, information emerges that would rise to the same standard that would lead to impeachment if he were already in office. Things like ties to organized crime or terrorism, etc. While I think he’s a terrible human being, I doubt that there’s anything that hasn’t come out already that would meet that standard.
But I do think that it’s something that some enterprising reporters ought to be digging for, just in case something was missed.
I think the standard I set has been reached. What’s happened in the interim isn’t as sensational as ties to organized crime or terrorism, but it is disqualifying in my view. The drumbeat of ethical issues and conflicts of interest that have arisen in the weeks since the election make it clear that Donald Trump cannot serve as President of the United States. So, my husband and I sent the following letter to Pennsylvania’s electors:
We write to ask that, before you cast your electoral vote for Donald Trump on December 19, you hold him to the same standards as other Presidents. In particular, Mr. Trump’s failure to put his holdings into a blind trust raises both ethical and foreign policy issues. His behavior since the election (as reported in news outlets including the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Fox News) suggests that he is concerned neither about the potential for actual corruption nor about the appearance of corruption.
Presidents put their assets into a blind trust, so their decisions as President are not influenced by how they would affect those assets. Not only has Mr. Trump failed to establish a blind trust, but after indicating that his older children would run his businesses, he then put those same children onto his Presidential transition team, where they have the opportunity to help select government employees whose decisions and actions may well impact the Trump empire.
On the foreign policy front, there are two concerns. First, it appears that Mr. Trump has been using his position to advance his business interests in other countries, and that foreign governments may be aiding Mr. Trump’s business interests. Reports indicate that several of his conversations with foreign leaders included requests from Mr. Trump for favors for Mr. Trump’s businesses. Several of Mr. Trump’s projects in other countries, which had been stalled, had moved forward since the election.
Even more concerning, Mr. Trump’s holdings around the world offer a large number of targets for terrorists who might want to make a point by attacking the President of the United States. Many of them are located in countries where terrorist attacks are common. Will American forces be called on to protect them? Could the United States be drawn into armed conflict?
The ethics lawyers for former President George W. Bush and for President Barack Obama (Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, respectively) both have stated that if Mr. Trump fails to divest himself of his businesses, he’ll be in violation of the Constitution from the moment he takes the Oath of Office. Their concern is Article 1, Section 9, which prohibits officeholders from receiving “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
The President of the United States must put the interests of our country above his or her own. If Mr. Trump is not willing to do that by divesting himself of his businesses or at the very least, placing them into an independently-run blind trust, then we urge you to cast your vote on December 19th for someone who will do so.
Since we finished the letter, even more troubling episodes have occurred. A call with the President of Taiwan, paired with the information that the Trump organization has been discussing opportunities in Taiwan. The invitation to the White House for the President of the Philippines, who has been encouraging vigilante killings of drug dealers and users. The suggestion of an official visit to Pakistan, without any apparent consideration of the consequences for our relationship with India.
If you live in a state won by Trump, I encourage you to write to the electors of your state. Feel free to use our letter or to edit it as needed to make the points you consider most important. I urge you to focus not on Mr. Trump’s overall unfitness for office, but specifically on things that have happened or have come to light since the election.