FRESH AIR: Will Donald Trump’s new job as president create ethical conflicts with his long-running role as a business owner? Trump sees no problem. “I have a no-conflict situation, because I’m president,” Trump said at a recent press conference. He was correctly referring to the federal conflicts-of-interest law that covers Cabinet secretaries, but not presidents. Still, ethics experts say other restrictions do apply to presidents, setting up serious ethical problems for the new administration.
“A president is not permitted to receive cash and other benefits from foreign governments,” Norm Eisen tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross. “And yet, Donald Trump is getting a steady flow of them around the world and right here in the United States.” Eisen, who served as President Obama’s special counsel on ethics and government reform, has joined forces with Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, to speak out publicly about Trump’s potential conflicts of interests.
Eisen describes Trump’s business entanglements as “frankly and nakedly unconstitutional. … It is extraordinary that we’ll have a president who is violating the constitutional conflicts clause, the so-called Emoluments Clause, as soon as he takes the oath of office,” he says. Painter concurs with Eisen’s assessment. “The president needs to focus on protecting the United States and American interests in a very dangerous world,” Painter says. “I really hope that President Trump takes the steps he needs to, to be free of conflict of interest in that endeavor.” MORE