December 1, 2016

Further Thoughts on Conflicts of Interest

Yesterday, I wrote about reasonable ways that a President Trump might avoid outrageous conflicts of interest. (See “Conflicts of Interest.”) I’d like to offer two other possibilities, though either of these leave Trump’s enterprises in the hands of his children, whom he might be inclined to favor in his acts and policies, possibly to the detriment of the country generally.

Scheme 1: Donald Trump could give his holdings to his children. There would normally be a large tax liability involved in such a transaction, but a law forgiving such liability to avoid conflicts of interest might be construed in Trump’s favor. (This is not a sure thing, however.) Such a gift would have to be made with the explicit agreement that the beneficiaries were under no obligation ever to compensate Trump for the gift. Ideally, the president should be enjoined from discussing the affairs of The Trump Organization while in office.

Scheme 2: Donald Trump could sell his stake in The Trump Organization to his children and put the proceeds into a true blind trust. Finding a reasonable price that his children could actually afford might be difficult. Again, the president should be enjoined from discussing the affairs of The Trump Organization while in office.

If Donald Trump does not devise some mechanism to avoid egregious conflicts of interest, his presidency will be handling one conflict-of-interest scandal after another for four years. It is doubtful that whatever plan he unveils on December 15 will quiet the press or the ethics watchdogs.

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