President-elect Donald Trump has at least 111 companies that have done business in 18 countries and territories, including current and ongoing deals in India, Turkey, potentially Saudi Arabia, Azerbaijan, Indonesia, and Panama, according to a Washington Post analysis. His properties are underwritten by huge loans from Germany's Deutsche Bank and the Bank of China. These business holdings create multiple ethical entanglements and potential conflicts of interest, and Trump's plan, to turn his business over to his children to run while he's president, has impressed nobody, including the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal.
— Brendan Nyhan (@BrendanNyhan) November 21, 2016
There are several interrelated issues. First, Trump's children are a key part of his presidential transition team, and some of them have sat in on Trump's meetings with world leaders, like Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. Daughter Ivanka's company touted a $10,800 bracelet she wore in an interview on her father's presidency with 60 Minutes. Trump just met with three Indian businessmen who say they are excited to use his higher-profile name to sell apartments in a Trump-branded building outside Mumbai. And last week, Trump's new hotel in Washington, D.C., hosted a marketing reception for 100 diplomats whose countries will have business before the Trump administration.
On CNN and NBC News Sunday morning, incoming White House chief of staff Reince Priebus dismissed concerns about Trump's conflicts of interest, saying Trump and his advisers are still coming up with a legal solution that "obviously will comply with all of those laws and we will have our White House counsel review all of these things," and that "Donald Trump makes the decisions in this operation."
The president and vice president are largely exempt from conflict-of-interest and ethics laws that cover everyone else in the federal government, as laid out in a 1978 law. But Trump's children running his business "will produce conflicts of interest of an unprecedented magnitude and create the appearance that he and his family are using his office to enrich themselves, even if they don't take advantage of the many opportunities to do so," Trevor Potter, a Republican former chairman of the Federal Elections Commission, says in The Washington Post. "These conflicts will haunt Trump's presidency unless he changes course." You can read why, and Potter's suggestions, at The Washington Post. Peter Weber