This Week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest: Divesting? Nah!

Donald Trump wants to govern. He also wants to run his business

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published December 17, 2016 12:00PM (EST)

 (AP/Evan Vucci)
(AP/Evan Vucci)

Not a lot of new conflicts of interest emerged from the Donald Trump camp this week (although this isn't to say that nothing came out), but plenty of news outlets were able to clarify the exact nature of these conflicts in important ways. Let's begin.

Donald Trump's conflicts-of-interest press conference never happened

Remember when Trump tweeted this on Nov. 30?

Well, this is what Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway had to tell CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday, three days before Thursday could inconveniently roll around: “The press announcement has been delayed until January, as the Trump Organization experts and other counsel are trying to decide which is the best organizing structure for the Trump Organization going forward. As you know, it’s a very unconventional situation.”

Donald Trump Jr. should not play a role in interviewing for interior secretary

Trump Jr. told an interviewer in November that "the big joke at Christmas this year was that the only job in government that I would want is with the Department of Interior. I understand these issues." This may seem endearing, but Trump Jr. has reportedly sat in on his father's discussions with potential interior secretaries.

Trump Jr. is also the youngest member of the Boone and Crockett Club, an elite hunting and wildlife conservation organization that traces its origins back to Theodore Roosevelt in 1887. Moreover — as has been pointed out so often that it shouldn't require repeating — Trump Jr. is expected to help manage his father's business empire while the president-elect is in office. This means that any involvement by him in Trump's cabinet appointments poses a clear conflict of interest.

Rex Tillerson, a Trump secretary of state pick, would have a troubling relationship with Russia

When Trump picked Rex Tillerson as his secretary of state, he only furthered concerns about the unseemly ties between his upcoming administration and the Russian government. As CEO of ExxonMobil, Tillerson formed a partnership with Russian oil company Rosneft in 2011, even though that company is majority-owned by the Russian government. When the deal was officially signed, Russian dictator Vladimir Putin was in attendance. Not surprisingly, Tillerson opposed U.S. sanctions against Russia after it invaded Crimea.

Deutsche Bank and Ladder Capital are being investigated by the federal government, but have loaned Donald Trump a lot of money

There is one line that makes a very intriguing point about Trump's conflicts of interest. "Arguably, the biggest conflicts he faces aren't related to what he owns," wrote Russ Choma of Mother Jones on Monday. "Rather, they relate to what he owes."

Mother Jones lists the various financial groups to which Trump owes money, of which two immediately stand out as the most egregious: Deutsche Bank, where Trump has four outstanding loans worth a total of $364 million, and Ladder Capital (which along with Deutsche Bank is one of only two major financial institutions to loan Trump money since 2012), from which Trump has taken out $282 million in loans and for which he appears to be personally liable for at least $26 million of the debt.

Trump is canceling licensing deals

If there is any silver lining to this week's news, it is that the president-elect seems to recognize at least some modest damage control is in order. That probably explains why he terminated three overseas licensing deals — two in Brazil and one in Azerbaijan — according to a report by Talking Points Memo on Thursday. The Trump Organization's general counsel, Alan Garten, described the terminations to CNN as "housecleaning."

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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