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This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest: The president gets a win

The president's signature building in Washington is conflict-free — for now


Matthew Rozsa
March 25, 2017 2:30PM (UTC)

President Donald Trump's conflicts eased up just a little bit this week.

The General Services Administration has ruled that Trump International Hotel will follow the law so long as the president can profit from his presidency later rather than right now.

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Trump International Hotel, which was developed off of the Old Post Office Pavilion after Trump purchased it in 2013 and is now run by his son Eric, has been declared in "full compliance" with the law by the General Services Administration, according to the Washington Post. The GSA's argument was that there was no conflict of interest because the president had resigned from a formal position in his former company and would not receive any personal profit from the hotel until after leaving office. Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings of Maryland and Peter DeFazio of Oregon condemned this on the grounds that "this decision allows profits to be reinvested back into the hotel so Donald Trump can reap the financial benefits when he leaves the White House. This is exactly what the lease provision was supposed to prevent."

Eric Trump, the president's son, is not supposed to discuss business with his father — but accidentally admitted that he is.

It turns out that "Saturday Night Live" skit in which Eric Trump accidentally blurted out that he and his brother Donald Jr. were still talking to their father about the Trump business empire was quite prophetic. Although the younger Trump initially told Forbes Magazine that he was going to maintain a "clear separation of church and state" when it came to the Trump businesses and the Trump presidency, he didn't even need two minutes to accidentally tell the truth. First he told them that he would actually update his father "on the bottom line, profitability reports and stuff like that, but you know, that’s about it." Then he said that the updates would occur "probably quarterly." As Eric Trump put it, "My father and I are very close. I talk to him a lot. We’re pretty inseparable."

Trump is installing his daughter Ivanka Trump to be his "eyes and ears."

In addition to ordering senior advisers to serve as "commissars" who make sure his cabinet officers remain loyal, Trump has also tapped his daughter Ivanka to be his "eyes and ears" in the White House. According to Ivanka's attorney Jamie Gorelick, the fact that the president's daughter will have an office in the West Wing and receive all the trappings of power doesn't mean she should have to follow the same ethics rules as everyone else — but she's going to play nice and do so anyway. "Our view is that the conservative approach is for Ivanka to voluntarily comply with the rules that would apply if she were a government employee, even though she is not," Gorelick explained.

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Negative press about conflicts of interest may be the undoing of a planned deal between Jared Kushner's family and a powerful Chinese company.

Although a company owned by the family of presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner had been reportedly in talks to engage in a generous deal with Anbang Insurance Company, a powerful Chinese real estate corporation, that deal may in fact be scuttled by Anbang's concern over the publicity surrounding the conflict of interest. In an email to the Wall Street Journal, an Anbang spokesman said "Contrary to recent reports, Anbang has no investment in 666 Fifth Avenue. Any suggestion that Anbang has signed a contract or made any kind of financial commitment is inaccurate."

Trump's policies have been especially good for his own businesses.

From rolling back environmental protections to freezing a regulation regarding overtime salary, Trump has pursued policies that are in many ways tailor-made to help the industries in which he also happens to have businesses, according to Politico. "Trump has been especially good news for the industries in which he has a personal interest: real estate, construction, entertainment, hospitality, gambling and, of course, golf," the site writes.

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

MORE FROM Matthew Rozsa

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Donald Trump Ivanka Trump Jared Kushner




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