The prospects for serious conflicts of interest have been hovering over Donald Trump for weeks. His far-flung businesses present tempting opportunities for foreign governments and domestic corporations to curry favor from the incoming president. And Trump hasn’t done a thing to mitigate the potential for self-dealing and corruption. In fact, he has encouraged it.
The latest self-enrichment program from the President-Elect was his New Year’s Eve party at his luxurious Mar-A-Lago Resort in Palm Beach. The guest list was a who’s who of upper-crusters who paid at least $525.00 each to attend. Here is how Politico described the affair:
“Saturday’s formal event is scheduled to include a cocktail hour in the resort’s living room and patio area, followed by dinner and dancing until 1 a.m. in its grand ballroom to live music performed by the band Party on the Moon.”
Trump’s spokesman, Sean Spicer, confirmed that the swank celebration was sold out, with 800 tickets sold. That means that the total take for Trump was at least $420,000.00. And this was not a political fundraiser. It was a for-profit gala that benefits Trump directly.
Trump spokesperson, Hope Hicks, was asked about the obvious potential for guests to use this as a way to to gain access to him. She responded saying that:
“The transition is not concerned about the appearance of a conflict. This is an annual celebratory event at the private club, like others that have continued to occur since the election. Additionally, the president cannot and does not have a conflict.”
Well, that settles that. Except that saying that “the president cannot and does not have a conflict,” doesn’t make it so. Rather, it indicates an acute inability to recognize a conflict when it’s plainly visible. However, Hicks’ statement that “the transition is not concerned” rings true. Trump has never demonstrated any concern for the financial entanglements that even worry his Republican colleagues.
Trump ignored reports about foreign diplomats who admitted that they booked rooms at his Washington, D.C. hotel in order to indulge him. He waived off news that dinner with his daughter was the prize in a “charity” auction. And after announcing a press conference to address these matters, he cancelled it two days before it’s scheduled date.
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As evidence mounts that Trump’s presidency will be a hotbed of corruption, he and his staff furiously downplay any problem. However, critics on both sides of the aisle are more worried. Some have suggested that he could be guilty of impeachable offenses on Inauguration Day. The Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause” prohibits the President from accepting any money, gifts, or items of value from foreign sources. There doesn’t seem to be any way to avoid that without fully divesting all of his assets and putting those funds in a blind trust. To date, he has refused to even consider that option. And, with any luck, that will be his undoing.