The electoral college hasn’t even voted yet, and foreign diplomats are already touring the DC Trump Hotel, planning how best to curry favor with the President-elect by funneling him over the table cash. This glaring conflict of interest is permissible by present law, and the appearance of conflict is only intensified by Trump’s placement of his children both in charge of his business and on his transition team’s executive committee, where they could have a hand in selecting their next landlord:
“Why wouldn’t I stay at his hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’ ” said one Asian diplomat. In interviews with a dozen diplomats, many of whom declined to be named because they were not authorized to speak about anything related to the next U.S. president, some said spending money at Trump’s hotel is an easy, friendly gesture to the new president.
This week, Democratic Representative Katherine Clark filed a bill to cover both the President and Vice President under the same ethics rules other high officials must satisfy. The Boston Herald reports:
Clark’s “Presidential Accountability Act’ would require the president and vice president to put their assets in a certified blind trust or disclose to the Office of Government Ethics when decisions are made that would affect their personal finances.
If diplomats, as well as corporate representatives and executives — whom the hotel hosted in a separate room Tuesday — want to spend lavishly at Trump properties, there appears to be no ethics rule to stop it, short of an act of Congress.
The Trumps opened the hotel in the Old Post Office pavilion, a 117-year-old property the company leases from the federal government. Officials at the General Services Administration, the landlord, have consulted the Office of Government Ethics about how to handle such conflicts, but the measures preventing other federal employees from profiting from their positions do not apply to the president.
American Presidents have traditionally placed their assets into blind trust to assure the public that they will not and cannot let money impact their national security decisions. But foreign entanglements and conflict of interest concerns have swirled around Trump’s political rise for the last year.
Now, the day has arrived where foreign powers can simply walk up to the desk of any Trump Hotel or Golf property and drop off cash.
Founding father Alexander Hamilton presciently warned our country in the Federalist essay #68 about the pernicious danger posed by foreign powers gaining undue influence over our President:
Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue, and corruption. These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.
How could they better gratify this, than by raising a creature of their own to the chief magistracy of the Union?
It’s one of Hamilton’s core messages to the 538 men and women of our electoral college, meant to caution them against voting for a demagogue, or a man with unacceptable foreign allegiances as our nation’s President.
Now, we don’t even have to guess or investigate. The doors of Trump’s hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue stand wide open, like a perverse game of Monopoly inviting foreign dignitaries and governments to roll the dice and drop cash on The Donald any time they need a favor.
Any reporter who plants themselves at the door of Trump’s DC Hotel can now tell us which nations are seeking to buy influence from the Oval Office. Unless a GOP Congress decides to act like a separate branch of government and passes a Democrat’s bill, we will be powerless to watch our foreign policy sold to the top bidder.
Our nation’s electoral college needs to see this information, and Hamilton’s warning, and vote in accord with our founding fathers’ stark warning.
Grant Stern is the Executive Editor of Occupy Democrats and published author. His new Meet the Candidates 2020 book series is distributed by Simon and Schuster. He's also mortgage broker, community activist and radio personality in Miami, Florida., as well as the producer of the Dworkin Report podcast. Grant is also an occasional contributor to Raw Story, Alternet, and the DC Report, and a senior advisor to the Democratic Coalition