President-elect Donald Trump doesn’t do anything with a mind toward tradition or decorum. He uses Twitter to make major announcements, or to call out individual reporters who write critical pieces. Today Trump announced a press conference in December on how he will separate himself from his business interests, via Twitter.
“I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump tweeted.
“While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”
“Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task.”
This is actually a good sign for a few reasons.
First, Trump has acknowledged that some things are “visually important” as he put it. The appearance of a conflict of interest is harmful to the presidency and governance of America. Someone finally got this fact through to him and it’s a good thing.
Second, having some kind of legal “Chinese wall” between Trump and his businesses, which will be run by his children, is a good thing to keep them out of the news as much as possible. Charges of nepotism and favoritism are going to be made at some point during his term (mark my words).
Third, Trump has appointed Don McGahn, general counsel for his transition team, as his White House counsel. It’s likely that McGahn will be crafting the legal documents and “policing conflicts” as NPR put it.
“I think that will be a massive undertaking for the next White House counsel,” said Kathryn Ruemmler, who served as White House counsel under President Obama. “I think it really adds to the complications, the areas around financial disclosure, conflict of interest.”
“Really, it’s a question of public confidence and can the people be confident that decisions were made for merits-based reasons and not because someone has personal financial interests or some other type of skin in the game,” she said, describing the challenges for McGahn.
The fact that liberals are suffering bulging veins in their necks and foreheads over McGahn is also promising. McGahn was former chief counsel for the NRCC, and served on the Federal Election Commission from 2008 through 2013.
But not everyone is super-excited about the pick. Charles Tiefer at Forbes expressed concern that given the mounting conflict of interest issues, McGahn could end up being “more like a consiglieri to the Godfather than a source of sound ethical counsel.”
“Sound ethical counsel” is opposition-speak when the president you didn’t want elected hires a lawyer who can keep him out of scandals. Good.
Before Trump builds his border wall, he’s got to build his legal wall against claims of favoritism, appearances of conflicts of interest, and scandal stemming from his business interests, which span the globe. It’s a positive sign that the president-elect is listening to sound legal advice.