While President Donald Trump has been busy trying to get Obamacare repealed and dealing with his now-unpopular chief of staff, Reince Priebus, he's still in office. That means that a White House that has already been trying to avoid massive conflicts of interest will continue to do so. But this week, we learn that people in Trump's orbit also have possible conflicts — and it's not the usual subjects.
Trump's new deputy Interior Secretary has been described as a "walking conflict of interest"
That's the report from the Denver Post, anyway, which notes that lawyer David Bernhardt has worked as a lobbyist for a firm representing a water district as well as energy interests. According to the Campaign for Accountability, Bernhardt continued to lobby on behalf of California's Westlands Water District even after he withdrew his lobbyist registration. They also accuse him of editing a draft executive order for Trump that would have directly benefited his former clients, noting that even if he wasn't being paid by the lobbying firm at the time, "he's still advancing the agenda of the group."
Despite these ethics concerns, Bernhardt's nomination passed the Senate by a 53-to-43 vote. And speaking of the Republican-controlled Congress...
Republicans on the House Financial Services Committee are carrying Trump's water when it comes to the president's relationships with foreign financial institutions like Deutsche Bank
Although Democrats on the committee justifiably wanted the Treasury Department to share documents about Trump's relationships to foreign financial entities like the German bank Deutsche Bank, they were denied the ability to do so by Republicans on that same committee, according to a report by NPR. The vote was 34 to 26, consistent with the partisan breakdown of the committee, and Chairman Jeb Hensarling of Texas made it clear that he didn't think they should spend money on looking into Trump's potential conflicts of interest when other committees were also investigating him. In addition to Deutsche Bank, they also would have looked into the Russian government and several Russian banks.
This anecdote about the Trump International Hotel in Washington speaks for itself
Courtesy of a GQ article from last month:
Trump drops in regularly with Ivanka and Jared Kushner. So do his cabinet members, including Mike Pence, Rex Tillerson, and Jeff Sessions. Steve Mnuchin, the secretary of the Treasury, lives in the hotel. During the inauguration, suites were renting for as much as $18,000 a night, and the hotel filled up with diplomats and Trump's business partners from places like Dubai and Malaysia. That same weekend, according to one forthcoming waiter, Fox News host Sean Hannity ran up a $42,000 tab in the restaurant, which included the cost of flying in an eight-pound 70-year-old lobster from Maine. (Fox News denied the story on Hannity's behalf.)