President Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest manifested themselves in two very notable ways during this week’s news cycle.
1. Trump’s trust is essentially meaningless
Sean Spicer denounced ProPublica as a “left-wing blog” when it revealed that Trump is now able to withdraw money from his businesses at any time without notifying the public. This reinforces a simple and obvious point: The only certain way to see if and how much Trump is continuing to profit from his businesses would be to release his tax returns.
2. Trump’s meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago resort is a perfect ad for his “Winter White House”
The point has been raised before, but it cannot be said enough. It is deeply un-kosher that President Trump keeps arranging for high-profile events to be held at his Mar-a-Lago resort. Turning the business into a “Winter White House” means that, even as Trump discusses crucial questions impacting America’s bilateral relationship with China, he will also be effectively plugging his business by keeping its name in the headlines. Trump will also need to be careful that he doesn’t allow his comfort with the resort to jeopardize proper diplomatic protocol. As David Wade, who served as chief of staff to Secretary of State John Kerry, told Politico, “There’s typically a suspicion among the Chinese delegation that Westerners can use a spontaneous one-on-one walk or pull-aside as a gambit to gain some advantage and veer off script. You have to build trust first. Otherwise American-style spontaneity breaks a lot of crystal glasses instead of breaking the ice.”
3. Trump International Hotel gets a glowing public review from a foreign ambassador
— Kaha Imnadze (@kahaimnadze) April 6, 2017
Lest you think this is an isolated incident, remember that Trump allegedly pressured the Kuwaiti Embassy to move a party to its D.C. hotel back in December. If nothing else, Trump’s unwillingness to divest from his various conflicts of interest has sent a signal that it makes more sense to stay on his good side by cozying up to his businesses.