President-elect Donald Trump is already using his election to act as Lobbyist-in-Chief for the Trump Organization’s interests around the world. Initial reports focused on the massive conflict of interest caused by Ivanka Trump participating in the phone call, but three days later we learned the real reason for the President-elect’s contact with the Latin American leader. Trump’s stalled project in Buenos Aires needed some direct government assistance:
Three days after the phone call between Trump and Macri on Nov.14, Trump’s associates at Buenos Aires firm YY Development Group announced that the construction project would go ahead, in an interview with La Nación (link in Spanish). The tower’s construction had reportedly been held up for years, for various reasons, with YY Development actively restarting construction permit requests when pro-business Macri took over from statist former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Jan. 2016.
There’s nothing substantive to confirm that the phone call and construction announcement are linked, but local news media have reported that the call itself was arranged in very unusual fashion. Macri, who is son of one of Latin America’s richest men and has reportedly known Trump since beating him at golf in the 1980s, had backed the wrong horse at the election, openly supporting Hillary Clinton. Accordingly, a crisis meeting was called to work out how to put relations on the right track (Spanish language) with Trump’s administration.
The President-elect told the New York Times just yesterday that if he’s inaugurated, there will be no conflicts of interest because he is President. That’s plainly wrong. Trump’s trading on his brand name when he becomes President represents an unconstitutionally illegal form of unjust enrichment.
Also, the entire discussion with Argentina’s President was handled without the State Department and held on an insecure, private telephone line to Trump Tower. The entire world knows that Trump is conducting official business from his insecure network, leaving all of his conversations open to hackers and snoopers.
However, Republicans don’t care if our national diplomacy or security is compromised by using unofficial channels if their own party member does it because it’s nothing to do with Hillary Clinton’s email.
Media Matters performed an investigation of national network evening news reports that found only seven minutes of coverage given to Trump’s potential conflicts of interest from mid-September – when a major Newsweek story illuminated the problem – through the election. During the only the single week after the election, 14 minutes of nightly news coverage has been devoted to Trump and his family businesses’ conflicts of interest.
Now, even the conservative Wall Street Journal is calling for Trump to sell his family business, because his voters imagined he would end self-dealing in Washington, DC. Of course, Trump just admitted to the IRS that he’s been violating tax law on charitable self-dealing for years, so there’s no reasonable basis for anyone to imagine he’ll run America better than his own Trump Foundation.
America’s mainstream media let voters down, ignoring the obvious potential for conflicted interest by having a real estate developer and salesman occupy the Oval Office.
Members of the electoral college should carefully consider Alexander Hamilton’s dire warning about letting foreign actors become “ascendant in our counsels,” by rejecting Trump as an unworthy man to become our nation’s President.
The Donald isn’t even waiting for inauguration day to use the President’s office to make a quick buck in real estate, but ultimately it’s America’s national interests that will take a back seat to Trump’s own personal bank account.
Grant Stern is an Editor-At-Large for OccupyDemocrats 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