binders full of ethics concerns

Top lawyers for Bush and Obama say Trump must sell his business to be President

Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images

Top ethics lawyers for the most recent presidents say the electoral college should not make Donald Trump the next commander in chief “unless he sells his companies and puts the proceeds in a blind trust,” writes Think Progress.

Richard Painter, Chief Ethics Counsel for George W. Bush, and Norman Eisen, Chief Ethics Counsel for Barack Obama, believe that if Trump continues to retain ownership over his sprawling business interests by the time the electors meet on December 19, they should reject Trump.

In an email to ThinkProgress, Eisen explained that “the founders did not want any foreign payments to the president. Period.” This principle is enshrined in Article 1, Section 9 of the Constitution, which bars office holders from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.

This provision was specifically created to prevent the President, most of all, from being corrupted by foreign influences.

Trump’s receiving international business that would violate such rules, perhaps most notably his new hotel in Washington, D.C.

The president-elect has said, “The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” While the president is exempt from some conflict of interest rules, the law isn’t “totally on [his] side.

Meanwhile, Trump’s found someone to jump through the complicated legal hoops of managing his many conflicts of interest: Donald McGahn. Trump’s pick for White House counsel left his job with the Koch Brothers to join the presidential campaign. He also served on the Federal Election Commission where, as The Boston Globe reported, he advocated for campaign finance deregulation.

Based on McGahn’s history, Forbes contributor Charles Tiefer argues he’s not a good pick.

Let’s hope the newly named White House Counsel, Donald McGahn, is not Trump’s whole answer to issues of conflict-of-interest and outright corruption as his business interests overlap with his governance. Because McGahn is a totally partisan politico, more like a consiglieri to the Godfather than a source of sound ethical counsel.

It’s fair to expect McGahn to focus on helping Trump find ways around the law rather than remedying the president-elect’s many conflicts of interest.