Bush, Obama Ethics Lawyers Slam Trump for Conflicts of Interest

Bush, Obama Ethics Lawyers Slam Trump for Conflicts of Interest January 16, 2017

After Donald Trump announced his utterly worthless plan for avoiding conflicts of interest, the head ethics lawyers for both the Bush and Obama administrations, Richard Painter and Norman Eisen, went on This Week and pointed out that Trump will be in violation of the Constitution the moment he is sworn in.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS (HOST): And Mr. Painter, you have heard from the incoming Trump administration. They say that no, the conflicts of interest laws do not apply to the president. That is correct on the central conflict of interest law. And they’ve said that he’s gone above and beyond what is called for by putting his assets into a trust, by putting his sons in charge of it. No new foreign deals, no information — limited information on what’s going to be happening with the business and putting the hotel profits from foreign countries into — donating that to the Treasury. Why isn’t that good enough?

RICHARD PAINTER: Well, some of the conflict of interest laws do apply to the president, particularly the emoluments clause of the Constitution which prohibits any type of benefit from a foreign government. And merely taking the profits from the hotels and putting those aside is not enough. They need to look at bank loans, they need to look at foreign banks leasing space in the Trump Tower. There are a broad range of issues that need to be dealt with. We’ve got the president’s name upon buildings in places where there could be a terrorist attack. This is a very precarious situation. The Office of Government Ethics is taking the right position on this, one consistent with Republicans and Democrats. And by the way, OGE and Walt Schaub in particular were very, very helpful in moving Bush nominees through. It’s not a partisan organization at all.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So bottom line, if we’ve seen what we’re going to see from President-elect Trump in terms of dealing with his conflicts of interest, do you believe he is going to be in violation of the Constitution when he takes that oath on Friday?

PAINTER: I believe yes, if he does not make sure that all the foreign government payments, and this includes banks and other corporations owned by foreign governments and sovereign wealth funds, that all of that money is not out of the Trump Organization by Friday when he takes the oath, he will be in violation of the Constitution. The Founders knew that foreign governments would try to meddle in our elections, meddle in our politics, and they did not want any foreign government money coming to anyone holding a position of trust with our government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: I see you nodding your head in agreement?

NORMAN EISEN: Why is Congressman Chaffetz investigating Walter Schaub for doing his job, George, after speaking so courageously? It was one of the most extraordinary acts of courage that I’ve seen from a career public official. Instead of investigating the fact that the president-elect is gonna be violating the Constitution with these flows of foreign funds, they admit they have a problem. They say, oh well we won’t — his lawyers said, well, we won’t take the profits in the hotels. What about the golf courses? What about the the huge foreign bank loans? What about the condos and the apartments that they sell? The permitting and the trademarks? Mr. Chaffetz should be investigating the president-elect’s impending violation of the Constitution, not this poor government official that is just trying to do his job. And Mr. Chaffetz has endorsed that unconstitutional plan.

But the Republicans in Congress not only refuse to investigate those conflicts of interest, they are threatening Walter Schaub, the head of the Office of Government Ethics, and promising to defund his agency, for doing his job.

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