Democrats Introduce Legislation Targeting Trump on Conflicts

The bill would force Trump to divest his business interests and release his tax returns.

Evan Vucci/AP


Congressional Democrats filed new legislation on Monday in both the House and Senate that would force Donald Trump and future presidents to obey the same strict conflict-of-interest laws governing other federal officials.

In 11 days, Trump is poised to enter the White House with unprecedented conflicts. His public disclosures of his personal finances show interests in hundreds of businesses, billions in assets, and more than $700 million in debts—including entanglements with foreign investors and lenders. Trump has said he will only step back from overseeing the businesses he owns, but he has so far declined to divest any of his assets (or the debts attached to them), citing the fact that federal conflict-of-interest laws exempt the president and vice president. The legislation introduced by congressional Democrats would remove this exemption and categorize a violation of conflict-of-interest regulations as an impeachable offense.

Democrats have hammered Trump over his conflicts, but with little Republican support they have so far failed to get much traction. The new legislation will face similar hurdles—Republicans are unlikely to allow the measure to even come to a vote—but it could serve as a pressure point on Republicans who have been dodging the issue.

“The only way for President-elect Trump to truly eliminate conflicts of interest is to divest his financial interests by placing them in a blind trust,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the lead Democrat sponsoring the Senate’s version of the bill. “This has been the standard for previous presidents, and our bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same.”

In addition to requiring the president to transfer his conflict-causing assets into a blind trust overseen by an independent trustee, the bill would prohibit presidential appointees from working on any issue that would benefit the financial interests of the president and the president’s immediate family. In Trump’s case, such a provision could block his appointees from matters ranging from Justice Department settlement talks with Deutsche Bank (Trump’s biggest lender) to foreign policy decisions involving countries, such as Turkey, where the Trump Organization has business interests. The legislation also folds in a measure, previously sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), that would require the sitting president and nominees of the major parties to publicly release their tax records.

Watchdog groups that have been calling for Trump to take action applauded the legislation.

“A second-grader could see that the only solution to this pervasive problem is for President-elect Trump to sell off the family business,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Because there is no sign he intends to do this, it is incumbent on the Congress to force him to do so. That’s why immediate passage of Senator Warren’s legislation is desperately needed.”

Read the full version of the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act legislation here.

One More Thing

And it's a big one. Mother Jones is launching a new Corruption Project to do deep, time-intensive reporting on the corruption that is both the cause and result of the crisis in our democracy.

The more we thought about how Mother Jones can have the most impact right now, the more we realized that so many stories come down to corruption: People with wealth and power putting their interests first—and often getting away with it.

Our goal is to understand how we got here and how we might get out. We're aiming to create a reporting position dedicated to uncovering corruption, build a team, and let them investigate for a year—publishing our stories in a concerted window: a special issue of our magazine, video and podcast series, and a dedicated online portal so they don't get lost in the daily deluge of headlines and breaking news.

We want to go all in, and we've got seed funding to get started—but we're looking to raise $500,000 in donations this spring so we can go even bigger. You can read about why we think this project is what the moment demands and what we hope to accomplish—and if you like how it sounds, please help us go big with a tax-deductible donation today.

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate