Why Conflicts Matter

In response to the list of conflicts we’ve documented, the Sunlight Foundation calls for disclosure, divestment, and the use of a blind trust with an independent overseer.

Why? The ethics loophole presented by a president who did not divest was clear in late 2015: there is no way for a President of United States to recuse himself from making domestic or foreign policy decisions which would have an impact upon his business holdings.

That’s why presidents divest and the public has expectations that candidates for high office will disclose any conflicts, to avoid even the appearance of corruption.

In the video embedded below, former White House ethics counsels Norm Eisen and Richard Painter explain the constitutional issues involved in these conflicts.

After Election Day, Sunlight chose to stand with over a dozen other transparency, anti-corruption and ethics advocates and sent a letter calling on President Trump to liquidate his holdings and put them in a blind trust controlled by an independent overseer to remove the unprecedented conflicts of interest between the presidency and a global business empire.

On December 9th, after President Trump did not take any action, Sunlight signed on to a second letter, joining a bipartisan group of dozens of governance experts arguing that his continued ownership of business enterprises would cause serious problems for both his presidency and the country unless he divested and disclosed.

On January 2nd, after Trump postponed a December 15th press conference to announce a plan to address these issues — or any press conference at all after the election in 2016 — Sunlight signed a third letter.

While we and the bipartisan list of signatories acknowledged and expressed appreciation for steps the President had taken to resolve a few conflicts of interest, the fundamental dynamic remained unchanged: the only ethical way for him to solve the problems he faces remains divesting from his business enterprises, and placing the proceeds into a blind trust managed by an independent trustee or the equivalent.

No other remedy would address the fundamental issues these conflicts pose to the presidency.