Photograph by Money Mix
Dear Mr. President,
Across the political spectrum, many have expressed concern about your continued involvement in the Trump Organization and its holdings. Your much-anticipated, post-election press conference offered a plan – leaving the business in a trust overseen by your sons – that fell short, leaving more issues unclear and unanswered.
I write to urge you to release your tax returns and heed the warnings of the former heads of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE), Richard Painter and Norm Eisen (see articles below), as well as abide by the recommendations of the OGE. Broadly speaking, they have pushed for you to separate yourself completely from your business in a more transparent manner and “not risk the perception that government leaders use their official positions for profit.”
One week into your presidency and none of this has happened. What lies ahead is continued scrutiny of your leadership, priorities and decisions and most likely impeachable offenses. Taken together, you are weakening not only the executive branch and our entire government here and abroad, but also your ability to act as president.
I am worried that the persistent black cloud of your business entanglements will follow you throughout your term as president. Take for instance your executive order suspending all immigration to the U.S. from certain Mideast and North African countries, i.e. countries with significant Muslim populations. The countries included are Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and Yemen.
As a recent Bloomberg article pointed out, the “proposed list doesn’t include Muslim-majority countries where his Trump Organization has done business or pursued potential deals,” meaning Turkey, Azerbaijan, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Now, before we even can discuss the merits of your plan or the legitimate reasons you may have behind your selection of countries, it is hard not to see that there is a correlation, unintended or not, with your business interests. Dubious or not, it is an obligation in our democracy given your stance on your businesses to question your motives and not give you the benefit of the doubt.
There are other cases of this including how some have suggested you hold a grudge against Mexico because of a failed business venture in Baja California. It may sound ridiculous, but you have shown an ability to hold grudges on smaller issues. And you have been pushing real hard to shame Mexico into paying for that border wall. Just release yourself from your business and we won’t question it.
These are all issues currently in play, but there are innumerable hypothetical situations which make things seem even worse. For instance, Deutsche Bank is the Trump Organization’s largest lender. In December, the German company reached a $7.2 billion settlement with the Justice Department over an investigation of its sale of mortgage-backed securities. What if it is investigated again? How can we trust that you won’t be unbalancing the scales of justice?
You have been entrusted with the great rights and responsibilities of the presidency. You decided to put yourself in this position so please remember that with great authority comes great sacrifice. The cabinet members (or nominees) and political appointees are making similar sacrifices, and what is being asked of you pales in comparison to the sacrifices those in our military make for this country every day.
Be the leader you have said you will be. Taking the proper action will make you stronger, elevate ethics in government, and increase the chances of our country succeeding domestically and abroad.
Do it because then I can write you about the merit of your decisions – how the Muslim immigration ban doesn’t even include the countries where the 9-11 terrorists were from (Saudi Arabia and Pakistan), not to mention how it targets an entire religion; and how having Mexico pay for the wall with a 20% tax or a tariff would likely just mean higher prices for tequila and Toyota Corollas being passed on directly to U.S. consumers.
For your reference, here is the complete statement from Walter M. Shaub, Jr., Director of the OGE, and various articles and interviews from ex-White House ethics lawyers Richard Painter and/or Norman Eisen:
Read up and take the appropriate actions, Mr. President.