US lawmakers express concern over foreign conflicts of Trump

Senator Cardin said the resolution will note that in the absence of such actions by President-elect before he assumes office, Congress will regard dealings by Trump-owned companies with any entity owned by a foreign government as potential violations of the Constitution.

By: PTI | Published:November 23, 2016 3:47 pm
Donald Trump, Trump New York times, Trump NYT, Trump NYT interview, Trump 100 days agenda, Trump agenda President-elect Donald Trump waves as he arrives at the Trump National Golf Club Bedminster clubhouse in Bedminster, N.J. Thousands of high school students from Seattle to Silver Spring, Md., have taken to the streets since Trump’s election to protest his proposed crackdown on illegal immigration and his rude comments about women. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Citing his meeting with Indian businessmen, Democratic lawmakers have expressed concerns over “conflict of interest” of Donald Trump, with one Senator planning to introduce a resolution asking the President-elect to ensure that his dealings do not violate the Constitution. Senator Ben Cardin, Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and a senior Member of Senate Finance Committee, has said he will introduce a resolution next week stating the sense of Congress that President-elect Trump should convert his assets to simple, conflict-free
holdings, adopt blind trusts, or take other equivalent measures, in order to ensure consistency with the Emoluments
Clause of the US Constitution.

Cardin said the resolution will note that in the absence of such actions by President-elect before he assumes office or specific authorisation by Congress, Congress will regard dealings by Trump-owned companies with any entity owned by a foreign government as potential violations of the Constitution.

“This resolution is intended to prevent a crisis or any misunderstanding regarding the consistency of the President’s actions with the US Constitution. Unless he takes appropriate action, Trump’s many international financial interests pose a great risk of violating the Constitution once he assumes the Presidency of the United States,” Cardin said.

“In the two months before President-elect Trump’s inauguration, he should provide the American people with
clarity and certainty that he will in no way, shape, or form use the office of the President to advance his substantial personal fortune,” he said. However, Trump said his presidency would not be marred by conflicts of interest stemming from his business empire. “In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There’s never been a case like this,” The New York Times quoted the real estate tycoon as saying.

Three Indian executives – Sagar Chordia, Atul Chordia and Kalpesh Mehta – had met Trump in New York last week. The three said that they have discussed expanding their partnership with the Trump Organisation now that Trump is President-elect.

In another related development, top Democrats on the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter to Inspectors General at federal financial services agencies, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Justice, calling on them to root out any potential “conflicts of interests” in President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Congressman Eliot Engel, Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee said that American national security requires the President to be singularly focused on what’s good for the US.

“In 14 short days, we have learned that President-elect Trump’s business partners from India paid a courtesy call at Trump Tower between meetings when Trump was interviewing candidates for the cabinet. Trump executives are pressuring foreign diplomats to stay at Trump Hotels, which after Inauguration may represent a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution,” Engel said.

“But the likelihood that President-elect Trump’s will protect his business holdings in countries as important as
China, India, and Saudi Arabia creates a clash between his personal finances and our national security. This is
unacceptable,” he said. “President-elect Trump’s questionable ethical principles may influence who he appoints to lead our federal agencies and, ultimately, influence the culture within these federal agencies. As a result, the work that you perform will become especially integral to upholding the ethical standards of the Executive branch,” the letter said.

The Members asked the Inspectors General to take immediate and proactive steps to ensure political appointees
at the agencies they oversee are held to the highest ethical standards “and mitigate conflicts of interest when they inevitably arise”. Meanwhile, Democratic lawmakers have introduced Presidential Accountability Act of 2016, which would extend current federal conflict of interest laws to the President and Vice President of the United States.

Federal conflict of interest law prohibits executive branch office holders from engaging in government business in
which they stand to gain profit. To avoid these conflicts and eliminate criminal liability, office holders are allowed to place their assets in a qualified blind trust. However, the President and Vice President are currently exempt from this law. Federal conflict of interest law prohibits executive branch office holders from engaging in government business in which they stand to gain profit.

To avoid these conflicts and eliminate criminal liability, office holders are allowed to place their assets in
a qualified blind trust. However, the President and Vice President are currently exempt from this law.

Previous American presidents including Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, George W Bush, and Barack Obama have all used some form of blind trust or placed their assets in an investment vehicle over which they had no control, said Congressman Jerrold Nadler, senior member of the House Judiciary Committee.