Donald Trump is headed for the November election with a strong chance of getting into the Oval Office. Who would have thought this possible just one year ago?
But now there is some concern there could be a conflict of interest between his potential job as President of the United States and his global business empire.
Just six months before Trump announced his campaign for president, he entered into a real estate deal in Azerbaijan. The project involves the building of a five-star hotel in the middle of downtown Baku. That was back in 2014 when oil prices were high. Then when oil prices tanked, the project was put on hold. The building remains dark and shuttered to this day, as construction contracts are being renegotiated.
The deal involves Trump and a 35-year-old billionaire named Anar Mammadov. Mammadov is the son of a government minister. And the Mammadov family is described by the Associated Press, as part of a longtime ruling regime that’s known for corruption and human rights abuses. It says that Anar Mammadov has made much of his money from construction contracts that he received through the country’s Transportation Ministry. That’s the ministry that’s run by his father.
Under the Trump-Mammadov contract for this 33-story unfinished hotel, Trump gets money for hotel naming rights. He’ll also be paid for managing the hotel, if and when it ever opens.
The Associated Press reports that critics are worried that the future success of this project will depend on good relations with the country’s political leaders. And if Trump becomes president, his business interests may conflict with his duty to act solely in the best interest of this country.
The conflicts of interest don’t begin and end with this project in Ajerbaijan.
In a Mother Jones article, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren from Massachusetts slammed Trump for what she calls “Huge Conflicts of Interest”. She says, “That’s a question that should worry every American.”
Warren was responding to reports that some $100 million dollars in loans to Trump from the German-based Deutsche Bank could present a significant conflict if Trump became President. That’s because of the bank’s recent scandal over global market manipulation. The bank paid $2.5 billion dollars in fines for it’s shenanigans.
University of Minnesota Attorney Richard Painter told Mother Jones that a President who owes a lot of money to banks could be at the mercy of those banks. And, he says that that could be troublesome because banks are at the mercy of government regulators, who may or may not be at the mercy of the commander-in-chief. Of course there are rules to prevent conflicts of interest, but in Trump’s case, this could be a very tangled web.
Warren said to Mother Jones that, “The job of President is to enforce the law fairly. If a serial lawbreaker like Duetsche Bank is caught manipulating markets again, how would Trump hold it accountable knowing that the bank had the power to pull the plug on his own businesses?”
CNN reports that, “Donald Trump’s 500 businesses would pose an unprecedented ethical dilemma. CNN Money spoke with several lawyers that specialize in ethics. They all said that Trump would have more potential business conflicts that any other U.S. President.
Trump himself has said he won’t sell any of his businesses. He’s said that he’ll have his children and his executives run things while he’s (potentially) managing the nation.
And as president, he’s not required to divest himself of any of his business interests. Other unelected officials in the executive branch are held to strict limitations on what they can and can’t own or manage while they work at the White House. But for the President, Vice President and members of Congress, the rules are not as strict.
What exactly does Trump own?
According to Investopedia, he has a vast portfolio of international real estate holdings and companies including hotels, golf courses, and casinos. It cites Forbes as estimating Trump’s net worth at $4.5 billion. Trump claims it’s more like $10 billion.
In People’s World, Larry Rubin writes that, “Trump’s presidential bid is a scheme to get richer, quicker.” He says Trump may just be in this race for the money and poses the question, “If not for the money, why would Trump bother to run?”
Rubin writes that Trump has never been known as someone who’s dedicated to public service or civic-mindedness. And that if he is elected, he’ll be the very first president to have never served in the government, the military, or the U.S. court system.
He says that the presidential campaign alone is making Trump richer because of name recognition. And, he says that Trump’s hotels are quite popular right now and that sales of his products are skyrocketing.
You might remember Trump’s victory speech after the Michigan and Mississippi primaries. He talked about his special name-brand wines, water and steaks.
Rubin says that Trump has also lost some business from people who are disgusted with his attitudes and antics. But he says that overall, Trump is doing “very well for himself”.
Trump wouldn’t be the first President to have a lot of money, but he would be the first President to preside over such a large international business empire. Some presidents with business interests that may be viewed as a conflict have put those businesses in blind trusts during their terms. But that’s not a requirement. It’s only a choice.
Trump supporters think Trump’s business background is somehow unique. But isn’t that really more common than not? That business men would seek political power to further their agenda? Does the name Bush ring a bell? Oil interests?
Trump supporters also believe falsely that business skills are enough to run a large government. It’s just not the case.
For example, the U.S. is swimming in $19 trillion of debt. On national television, Trump said he knows exactly how to negotiate that debt. What he meant was to pay less than what’s owed through bankruptcy or default. This has been one of his successful strategies in real estate and businesses.
But such a policy would be devastating to the U.S. Who would buy government debt if they knew it would end up in default? Think Puerto Rico…
Who owns these bonds? Whether it’s senior citizens or foreign governments – losses would not go over well.
Trump is used to taking care of Trump. Renegotiating loans and not paying creditors has worked out for him in the past.
It doesn’t work that way when we’re dealing with world governments and retirees – who would stand to get very hurt taking a pay cut from the great U.S.A.
Republicans have got Trump whether they like him or not. But hopefully they can be a little more educated on what he really brings to the table.
And hopefully the checks and balances in our system will kick into action if indeed he is elected in November.
Please note: I was a Republican all my life. This election has changed that.