Barely a day after his inauguration, Donald Trump has already been hit with his first ethics complaint. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics watchdog group has filed a formal complaint with the General Services Administration over Trump’s lease of the building in which resides the Trump International Hotel in D.C., which Trump violated the second he was sworn in, since the lease contains language that explicitly forbids “elected officials from benefiting to avoid conflicts of interest with their duties.”
Trump leased the building from the GSA in 2013 for 60 years, at a rent of $3 million a year. Democratic lawmakers have already demanded that the GSA take action, but nothing has been done as of yet.
This is sure to be the only the first in a long line of conflict of interest complaints filed against Trump, who has refused to divest himself from his businesses or even hand them over to his sons, a move that is still inadequate but at least indicates a vague interest in at least keeping up the most cursory perception that he cares about ethics at all. But Trump is already violating the Constitution with his refusal to separate himself from his businesses.
By not divesting himself from his businesses, Trump’s businesses automatically becomes a pay-for-play corruption vehicle by which foreign governments can influence Trump’s behavior by providing generous “donations” or otherwise spending heavily at his businesses – a fact not lost on foreign actors, who have been flocking to his Washington Hotel in order to curry favor with the corrupter-in-chief.
“He just swore on the Bible to ‘preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States,’ but by continuing to accept payments from foreign governments, he has already failed” says CREW director Noah Bookbinder.
However, it is unlikely that any action will be taken, as Republicans in Congress scheme to gut the Ethics Office and have already made it clear they will punish agencies that dare to criticize the despot-in-chief or his oligarch cronies. We must stay vigilant and not let a single corrupt action go unnoticed and without acknowledgment. This is not normal, and we cannot afford to normalize it.
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Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.