You may have heard the words “conflict of interest” thrown around a lot lately – that’s due to the fact that Donald Trump is a businessman and a soon-to-be-president and the practice of mixing business and politics is, frankly, conflicting. So why all the fuss you ask? Well, there’s a (justified) fear that Trump will treat the presidency as his own personal piggy bank just like he treated the Trump Foundation; there’s also a (justified) fear that foreign governments and corporations will use their ties to Businessman Trump to hold leverage over or gain favor with President Trump. Unfortunately there’s not much anyone can do about the whole thing since presidents are exempt from the conflict of interest laws that other politicians have to abide by. However, the US Constitution does say that presidents can’t accept any foreign gifts without Congressional approval. Because, duh, there’s no conflict of interest when it comes to governments policing themselves…
You may be thinking, even if those justified fears come true, it’s not like former presidents haven’t owned any businesses, right? Yes, but all other modern presidents temporarily put their assets in a blind trust or sold their businesses (incidentally they also released their tax returns), all of which Trump has so far refused to do. The link between presidency and personal profit here isn’t even being kept hidden (think: his DC hotel being booked by foreign diplomats; his family members being invited to meetings with foreign leaders; his comments about his brand becoming “hotter” since the election). Trump has insisted that he doesn’t care about his business interests but his actions over the past three weeks indicate that he views his new role as an opportunity to connect Trump Corp and America Corp – but it’s far from clear whether he sees it as a merger or an acquisition.
So what does all of this mean right now, you ask? Well some people are speculating (read: desperately hoping) that Trump won’t even make it to the White House since the Electoral College still has to officially confirm his election and these conflict questions are muddying the waters (don’t hold your breath). Others are saying an independent watchdog committee should be set up to review Trump’s financial dealings and create a process to deal with current and future conflicts of interest. Still others are feeling betrayed because #DrainTheSwamp and because multi-billionaire post-truth deal-maker Trump promised to rid Washington of corruption. Ultimately Trump’s administration, and the Republican Party by association, could well be dragged down for the next four years due to endless conflict-ridden scandals and a perceived lack of transparency. The bottom line is simply that we will probably never know whether Trump’s future foreign policy decisions will be based on America’s best interests or his own. And that should make everyone feel conflicted.
Sitting on a throne of lies and don’t want to get caught? Movie for your improvisational mood: The Sting