The Trump Organization: Unprecedented Conflicts of Interest

Trump’s business ties collide with foreign governments

President-elect Trump holding a thumbs up with three of his Indian partners. (Twitter/Devandra Jain)

By Emily Ficker

The Progressive Teen Staff Writer

ELECTING A BUSINESS MAGNATE AS PRESIDENT IS UNCHARTED TERRITORY FOR THE UNITED STATES, and with new ground comes new conflicts. These points of contention range from Donald Trump’s U.S. properties to his foreign interests. Policy experts and civilians alike have been questioning the morality and legality of Trump’s conflicts of interest since the President-elect first announced his candidacy; however, as the time leading up to January 20 seems like a race against the clock, these inquiries are pushing toward the front lines.

“Because he is a businessman” was on the running list of reasons why voters supported President-elect Donald Trump, along with “he tells it like it is” and “he is an outsider.” However, Trump’s role as a business mogul is waging unprecedented conflicts of interest for the United States. At the top of the list is the Trump International Hotel, just blocks away from 1600 Penn. As inauguration week rolls around, foreign allies may feel incentivized to book at the Trump Hotel to curry the favor of the White House. Countries such as Bahrain have already booked at the hotel for foreign diplomats to celebrate the candidate’s win. However, this simple transaction could be considered to contest constitutional limits via the Emolument Clause. As the clause states, no person holding any office shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state,” unless given permission by Congress. Benefiting from transactions with foreign-controlled governments have never been tested in court, pertaining to the head of the Executive branch, yet it acts as the single piece of legislation that could impeach the President-elect for this type of behavior. In addition, there are ethical and security implications that come along with having a President’s name on commercial properties in exchange for payment. A quid pro quo aside, conflicts with the Emolument Clause are not implausible.

Having existed for nearly a century, the Trump Organization holds deep-seated business ties with foreign government officials and individuals through global investments and properties. A major concern regarding Trump’s business ties are the possibility of the President-elect considering these personal investments and foreign relations when acting on behalf of the country. Along with these ties, The Trump Organization owes large sums of money to foreign lenders in China and Russia. When making economic decisions that directly affect international lending institutions, interests rates, and monetary policy, it is plausible that the President-elect will have the Trump Organization’s interests in mind. In light of being elected, Trump has already met with various business partners in the Trump Tower, suggesting that the Trump Organization remains a major priority for the President-elect.

ON NOVEMBER 30, DONALD TRUMP CLAIMED THAT “THE PRESIDENCY IS A FAR MORE IMPORTANT TASK” and announced that he would be leaving the company “in total.” However, the address failed to mention who would take over the executive role at the Trump Organization. The organization is likely to be handed off to his three children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric. However, a feasible option would be to set up a blind trust: a financial arrangement in which the administration of the company would be given to an independent party. Donald Trump’s lawyer stated earlier in the month that Trump’s three children will act as the blind trust; however, Trump enlisted Ivanka, Donald and Eric to serve on his presidential transition team. The question of whether Donald Trump will fully divest from the ownership of his various properties remains unanswered, but his transition team promised to address the full details at a press conference mid-December.

With the multitude of conflicts that could arise from foreign properties, investments, and debt, it would be difficult for Trump to direct his full attention to the Presidency. Whether Donald Trump will choose to distance himself fully from the Trump Organization remains unknown — but if one thing is for sure, it is that Trump’s conflicts of interest pose the threat of influencing Supreme Court Justice nominations, Cabinet picks, international relations, and most drastically, the law of the land.

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