The president and vice president are currently exempt from any financial conflict of interest rules. And President Trump, with his global business and real estate empire, has created an “unprecedented” number of White House conflicts of interest.
What the bill does
Introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA5), the legislation would require the president and vice president to both reveal and divest themselves from any potential financial conflicts of interest. The bill would also apply for presidential and vice presidential spouses, children, and appointees.
The legislation would also require both major party presidential nominees to publicly release their tax returns from the preceding three years, adapted from Sen. Ron Wyden’s (D-OR) Presidential Tax Transparency Act, which GovTrack Insider previously covered in November.
Warren, a rumored possible 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, could possibly be subject to the law herself.
Trump’s conflicts of interest
President Trump, the first major party candidate not to release tax returnssince the 1970s, is suspected by many of having financial conflicts of interest that are not yet known. Indeed, Trump’s global business and real estate empire is worth billions of dollars and spans countries all over the world, including many whose relationships with the U.S. are critical or contentious. And Trump has not divested himself from his business assets, instead onlypassing control of his business to his sons Donald Jr. and Eric.
As Huffington Post Politics reporter Paul Blumenthal pointed out, Trump’s actions as president-elect and president have caused concern about his potential to profit off of decisions he makes from the Oval Office. “After stating during his presidential campaign that he would have nothing to do with his business if elected, Trump has met with his foreign business partners, touted them to foreign leaders and appointed his adult children to the executive committee of his presidential transition despite plans for them to assume control of the Trump Organization,” Blumenthal wrote.
What supporters say
Supporters argue that the bill is necessary to ensure that White House actions are taken on behalf of the American people, rather than to personally benefit oneself, one’s children, or one’s corporation.
“Every recent president in modern history has taken steps to ensure his financial interests do not conflict with the needs of the American people,” House lead sponsor Clark said in a statement. “The American people need to be able to trust that the President’s decisions are based on the best interests of families at home, and not the President’s financial interests.”
“The American people deserve to know that the President of the United States is working to do what’s best for the country — not using his office to do what’s best for himself and his businesses,” Senate lead sponsor Warren echoed in a statement. “The only way for [President] Trump to truly eliminate conflicts of interest is to divest his financial interests by placing them in a blind trust. This has been the standard for previous presidents, and our bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same.”
What opponents say
Republicans view the bill as a purely political attempt by Democrats to undermine and set limits on a Republican president.
A number of congressional Republicans vocally took issue with Trump’s financial secrecy and potential conflicts of interest during the campaign, but most have entirely remained mute on the subject since the election. Accordingly, zero Republicans have yet signed on to cosponsor the legislation.
Odds of passage
The bill has attracted 115 cosponsors in the House and 23 cosponsors in the Senate, all Democrats. The legislation has yet to receive a vote in the House Oversight and Government Reform, Judiciary, or Ways and Means Committees, or the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.