Since being elected, Donald Trump has squirmed under pressure from critics who have demanded he divest assets in his companies completely, and soon. The Trump family has repeatedly insisted on setting up a blind trust to deal with the ethical quandary, although exactly how "blind" such a trust — run by Trump's sons, Don and Eric — would be, many critics are doubtful.
Politico now writes that the transition team is exploring options that might not be blind at all: Trump might just keep one eye shut.
In a typical blind trust arrangement approved by federal ethics authorities, an incoming official's investments are transferred to an institutional financial manager who oversees them without reporting details to the owner. Assets that risk a conflict of interest are sold off over time and replaced with assets the official is not informed about ...
But with a discretionary trust, the conflicts almost magically disappear because the investments aren't considered to belong to the incoming official at all — even if they're producing a steady stream of income for the official. Instead, the assets are held in a trust that is often overseen by a family member who can, but is not legally required to, send revenues from the assets to the government official. Another benefit: there's no explicit prohibition on the official talking with the trustee about the financial holdings. [Politico]
The plan would effectively be a "half-blind" trust that would allow Trump to "peek" on his businesses, Politico explains. But Walter Shaub, the chief of the Office of Government Ethics who was appointed by Barack Obama and will be in office until January 2018, could continue to demand a more satisfying solution.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said decisions have not yet been made. But "to have someone baby-sit your conflict-creating assets while you go around and do whatever you want, in my view that's a violation of at least the spirit of the rules and that's an abuse," explained Richard Painter, a former ethics lawyer. Painter added that Trump's solution would be "highly inappropriate."