Should President Trump be receiving updates on his businesses from his sons or does this create an ethical dilemma and break the promise that Trump made to stay separated from his former organization?
On the one hand, Eric Trump maintains that there is a clear separation between the president and the Trump organization. Eric likens it to the separation of the church and the state and declares how serious he takes that position. President Trump has clearly outlined the plan: “I don’t talk about the government with him, and he does not talk about the business with us. That’s kind of a steadfast pact we made, and it’s something that we honor.”
But on the other hand, Eric concedes that he will continually update his father on things like profitability reports at least quarterly. The younger Trump confesses, “I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable.”
Larry Noble, the general counsel of the nonpartisan Campaign Legal Center and former chief ethics officer at the Federal Election Commission said: “He is breaking down one of the few barriers he claimed to be establishing between him and his businesses, and those barriers themselves were weak, to begin with. But if he is now going to get reports from his son about the businesses, then he really isn’t separate in any real way.” Former George W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer expressed a similar thought: “It just means that a lot of what they say is malarkey because the president isn’t distancing himself from the business. It doesn’t matter how much of the management is being delegated. Things are always delegated in business, down to who the hotel clerk is at the Trump hotel. But at the end of the day, he owns the business. He has the conflicts that come with it.”
Even before Trump ascended to the White House the President’s sons have been running the business. Some say that they were conducting 90% of the overall business. And since the president has begun serving, their relationship has changed significantly. Don Jr. recently told the New York Times that he has barely talked to his father. Eric now just sticks to more serious conversations, “I also realize how big of a magnitude the decisions he makes and the things he has on his plate. I minimize fluff calls that you might otherwise have because I understand that time is a resource. And that resource is important, especially when you’ve got the biggest job in the world.”
The Trump organization has drastically curtailed their international work, pulling out of deals with Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Brazil. They have pledged to do no new foreign deals. These are admirable decisions and may, in fact, signal a willing sacrifice regarding profits to maintain an ethical separation between business and government.
But do you think that President Trump receiving quarterly reports is legit? Or does it create a real conflict of interest? When the president receives those reports, is he breaking a promise that he made to stay out of the family business while he serves as president? Do you remember his January announcement when he said that he was handing over the reigns of management to Eric and Don Jr: “I hope at the end of eight years I’ll come back and say ‘Oh you did a good job.’ Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I’ll say, ‘You’re fired.’”
We would love to hear your thoughts and read your comments.