Thursday, December 01, 2016

Donald Trump: A list of conflicts of interest

Republican Donald Trump appears at a campaign roundtable event in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S., October 28, 2016.

Donald Trump's extensive, international business holdings means he will have to make decisions as leader of the US that also impact his businesses. A look at some of his potential conflicts of interest.
The Trump Organization is an umbrella company for Donald Trump's hundreds of investments in real estate, branding and other deals.
As head of the executive branch and a business owner, he would have the ability to influence both US policy and government agencies to benefit his bottom line.
Presidents are not subject to the same conflict of interest rules as other government employees, and previous commander-in-chiefs have placed their investments into a blind trust to prevent any question of corruption.
Previously Mr Trump has only said three of his adult children will be running the Trump Organization, but they are also members of his transition team and have sat in on meetings and calls with foreign leaders.
Now the president-elect has tweeted that he will hold a press conference on 15 December to "discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total" because the "Presidency is a far more important task!"
Mr Trump has not specified what this means in practice other than "legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations".
Ethics experts have urged Trump to liquidate his business holdings so that he can avoid any appearance of a conflict.

Below is a list of known conflicts of interest for Mr Trump, both foreign and domestic. Because his business is private, the extent of his holdings - and the potential for conflicts - are unknown. Many of these conflicts were reported before Mr Trump won the election, but have become more pressing as his transition team begins to make decisions about his presidency.

40 Wall street
The Trump Organization owns the right to lease the space in this office building in Manhattan - and makes money from the rent paid to the building.  According to Bloomberg News, there are five ongoing federal investigations into current or former tenants of 40 Wall Street, mostly for securities fraud.

Those investigations are headed up by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and Mr Trump will appoint a new SEC chair once he takes office.

Native Americans march to the site of a sacred burial ground that was disturbed by bulldozers building the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), near the encampment where hundreds of people have gathered to join the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe's protest of the oil pipeline slated to cross the nearby Missouri River, September 4, 2016 near Cannon Ball, North Dakota
Sioux tribes and allies have been protesting for months to prevent the Dakota Access pipeline from being built under water supplies near the Standing Rock reservation. Trump had a partial investment - somewhere between $500,000 and $1m - in the parent company of the firm building Dakota Access pipeline, Energy Transfers Partners.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks says Mr Trump has sold his stock in Energy Transfer Partners. But another one of Trump's stock holdings, Phillips 66, owns a 25% share in the project.  It's unclear if the president-elect has also sold his stock in Phillips 66, as his last financial disclosure was in May.
The US Army Corps of Engineers and the interior department have delayed a decision on the future of the pipeline until they can consult further with other local communities. Mr Trump's political appointee to head the interior department could ultimately be responsible for the decision.

Deutsche Bank
One of Trump's major lenders on his real estate projects is Deutsche Bank.
The bank is currently in negotiations with the US justice department to settle a case involving misleading buyers when it sold mortgage bonds backed by risky loans.
If Deutsche Bank does not settle by inauguration day, Mr Trump's administration would be in charge of the negotiations.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump (C) and his family (L-R) son Donald Trump Jr, son Eric Trump, wife Melania Trump and daughters Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump prepare to cut the ribbon at the new Trump International Hotel October 26, 2016 in Washington, DC
Donald Trump (C) and his family prepare to cut the ribbon at the new Trump International Hotel in October 2016

The Trump Organization leases the Old Post Office Building from US government's General Services Administration (GSA) for the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC.Trump as president is both "landlord and tenant" of this building, says Steven Schooner, who along with Daniel Gordon, have called on Trump to end the lease.
The 60-year lease will likely involve renegotiations - and the person responsible on setting the rent prices would ultimately report to the head of the GSA, a Trump appointee.In addition, the lease bars any federal employee, including elected officials, from benefitting from contracts with the government.
Meanwhile. the hotel has already been pitched to foreign diplomats as a place to stay while in Washington, raising concerns that foreign governments could see booking expensive rooms at the Trump International as a way to gain favour with the Trump administration.

National Labor Relations Board
On 3 November, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) ruled that Trump International Hotel Las Vegas - which Trump co-owns - broke the law by refusing to negotiate with a hotel workers' union.  The hotel appealed the case to a higher court. But eight other labour disputes involving the Las Vegas hotel are currently before the board. Trump will appoint two empty seats on the five-person board after he becomes president, and the NLRB is facing an unprecedented situation on how to rule on disputes that will affect the president's business.

Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump departs in his plane after rallying with supporters in a cargo hangar at Minneapolis Saint Paul International Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota, U.S. November 6, 2016

During the campaign, Trump's airplane company, TAG Air, billed the Secret Service for flying on Trump's Boeing 757 while protecting the candidate. It is standard for Secret Service to pay their own way on private aircraft, and during the campaign, this was tracked by the Federal Election Commission through campaign finance reports.
While Mr Trump will fly on Air Force One and other US aircraft as president, if Trump or Pence family members are assigned protective detail and decide to fly on Trump planes, the Secret Service would need to reimburse TAG Air - and ultimately Mr Trump - for the flights. Such amounts are part of Secret Service's normal budget and are unlikely to be disclosed.

Foreign holdings

According to Trump's financial disclosure, he has investments in or owns companies in at least 20 countries. Unlike his domestic business, Mr Trump could run afoul of a clause in the US constitution by continuing to profit from these deals.
The emoluments clause specifically prevents anyone who holds a US "office of trust or profit" from accepting gifts, payments or any benefit from a foreign nation.
Even routine business benefits like tax breaks would likely violate the emoluments clause once Mr Trump becomes president.
One former White House ethics lawyer has argued Mr Trump would be violation of the constitution "on day one", if he keeps his business.
In addition to emoluments, Mr Trump's foreign policy decisions could be called into question in any country in which the Trump Organization does business, especially when his policies would benefit the firm's holdings overseas.Here are some of Mr Trump's larger business deals that intersect with US foreign policy.

An Argentine broadcaster reported Mr Trump allegedly asked President Mauricio Macri for his support to build an office tower in Buenos Aires while on call during Mr Trump's transition period.
Mr Macri's office and the Trump campaign have denied the report.
However, several days later, the Buenos Aires firm building the tower announced construction of the project was going ahead after years of delays.

A waterfront property in Rio de Janeiro, branded with the Trump name through a licensing deal, is the subject of a federal inquiry after two small Brazilian pension funds invested heavily in the unfinished project, with allegations of bribery.

The Bank of China is one of China's largest banks and also majority state-owned. It holds the title on a $950m loan for a New York Building in which Trump is a part owner. Mr Trump has previously labelled China a currency manipulator.
Another largely government-owned Chinese bank - the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China - has space in Trump Tower, paying rent to the Trump Organization.

Trump has a licensing deal for buildings in Mumbai and Pune.
One of his deals is with the Lodha Group, whose founder, Mangal Lodha, is also a vice-president in the ruling government party, BJP. Shortly after Mr Trump won the presidency, some of his Indian business partners flew to the US to congratulate Mr Trump, who took time out of transition meetings to discuss "US-India relations".
Philippines' newest trade envoy to the United States is the same man who is building Trump Tower Manila. Like many of Trump's branding projects, Mr Trump does not own the building himself, but licenses his name to the building in return for regular payments.
Trump family members have previously promoted the project, including a promotional video.  The trade envoy/business partner reportedly flew to US to hold a private meeting with Mr Trump after the election.

Saudi Arabia
During the course of the campaign, Trump created eight business ventures tied to a potential real estate deal in Saudi Arabia. Mr Trump told Fox News earlier this year, he "would want to protect Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is going to have to help us economically".

In 2008, Trump entered a licensing partnership with Turkish conglomerate Dogan Holdings, who were planning to build two residential and business towers in Istanbul's business district.  Relations between Dogan Holdings and Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan have turned sour since the towers opened in 2012.
The Dogan family, also own a paper critical of Mr Erdogan.
An earlier story from Newsweek argues the poisoned relationship between Mr Erdogan and the Dogans means Mr Trump would have a direct conflict between his business interests and his relationship with a US ally.  Turkey's importance in the fight against IS and the Syrian civil war makes the stakes much higher.

Mr Trump owns two golf courses in Scotland and has recently asked Nigel Farage to oppose wind farms, not because he believed they were bad for the UK or contradicted US energy goals, but because a wind project would potentially lower the value of one of his golf courses.
"He did not say he hated wind farms as a concept; he just did not like them spoiling the views," Andy Wigmore, the Leave.EU communications director at the meeting told the New York Times and the Express.
The golf courses could also be affected as part of Brexit negotiations or a second Scottish independence referendum. What a coil.

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