Sunday, December 18, 2016

Making Sure that Our President’s Interests Align with Ours

I have no time to be eloquent. So allow me to be blunt.

If you believe such venerable news outlets as the New York Times and Washington Post, you probably accept the following seven points: (1) the U.S. Government is claiming that the Russians hacked our computers in order to influence our elections, (2) the Russian hacking was clearly designed to turn the American public against certain Democratic candidates, including not only Hillary Clinton but also certain Congressional candidates, (3) Donald Trump has reacted with skepticism to reports that the Russians were tampering with the Presidential election, (4) Donald Trump has also seemed relatively uninterested in getting sufficient briefings necessary to fully evaluate matters of national security (which would surely include tampering with elections), (5) Donald Trump has been involving his oldest children, including his two oldest sons, in his official post-election meetings, and may be leaning on the advice of his sons in determining who should staff important Government posts, (6) Donald Trump is preparing to turn over to his sons hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars of assets, many of which are overseas, and to allow his sons to manage these assets while he is President, and (7) while the public is not aware of all of Mr. Trump’s assets, we have reason to believe that he has had done considerable business with Russia, whose leader Trump has spoken of highly and who is friendly with Mr. Trump’s choice for Secretary of State.

If that is all true, and many if not most Americans believe it is, how is the American public expected to be confident that Mr. Trump will invariably make decisions of vital national security significance without taking into account the effect that these decisions will have on his family’s considerable business interests?   

To me, there is only one way for the public to gain such confidence: for Mr. Trump and his family to turn over complete information about their corporate assets to the Government.  The Government would employ trained financial analysts to estimate the fair market value of these assets – not the kind of “fire sale” value that many Democratic partisans would like them to receive if Mr. Trump was forced to sell the assets prior to the time he took office – and then provide that fair market value to the Trump family in some sort of cash equivalent in exchange for the sale of the assets.  Consider this akin to the eminent domain principle that most of us are familiar with.   

I realize that such an outcome may not seem fair to the Trump children, who did not themselves decide to run for President and, all else equal, should be allowed to serve in their chosen field (business) while their father is President.  But these are not ordinary times, and we need to figure out the “least bad alternative” to respond to the seven points identified above.  Besides, Mr. Trump’s two oldest sons have participated in both his Presidential campaign and his post-election activities.  They surely can find outlets for their energies while their father is in the White House – akin to the kind of outlets that Hillary Clinton found when her husband was President and to the outlets that Mr. Trump already is planning for his daughter Ivanka and her husband.   

I’m sorry, but I just cannot identify a better approach.  As long as Mr. Trump retains the assets at issue – and I consider turning them over to his sons to be a form of retaining them – I don’t know how a President-elect can expect an entire nation to trust him to do the job for which he was elected.  We are talking about blatant conflicts of interest, which just happen to coincide with an apparent unwillingness to get to the bottom of the attack that our Government is now attributing to their Russian counterparts.   Only the most extreme Republican Partisan – or anyone who hosts a show on Conservative Talk Radio – can fail to see the problem.  

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