NEW YORK — Senator Elizabeth Warren insists that President-elect Donald Trump is not doing enough to avoid a conflict-of-interest scandal.
Trump detailed Wednesday that he plans to transfer his business holdings to a trust, but he won’t sell them. And he’s handing over his role at the Trump Organization to his sons, Don Jr. and Eric, claiming his sons “will not discuss it with me.”
Warren — speaking just after Trump announced his plan to isolate himself from his businesses — told CNN Money’s Cristina Alesci that his plan should not be good enough for the American people.
“This is not a Democrat or Republican issue. This is a good government issue,” Warren said.
Warren, a Democrat from Massachusetts, introduced a bill that would require the President of the United States to sell his or her assets before taking office.
Trump’s web of businesses are so extensive that questions have been raised whether having foreign officials stay at a Trump hotel would violate the Constitution’s “emoluments clause,” which prohibits elected officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments.
Trump’s lawyer argued Wednesday that his hotels do not violate the emoluments clause.
“The so-called ’emoluments clause’ has never been interpreted to apply to fair-value exchanges,” Trump lawyer Sherri Dillon said at a press conference. “No one would have thought, when the constitution was written, that paying a hotel bill is an emolument.”
Warren’s take on that: “Oh for heaven’s sakes. I mean no one buys that argument. It doesn’t even pass the straight face test.”
There is a statute that shields the president and vice president from conflict of interest laws. Congress passed it assuming that the president’s powers are so far-reaching that enforcement could be handicapping. However, Trump is unique as president’s go. The breadth of his business interests is unprecedented, and Warren says the potential corruption could destroy people’s trust in the office.
“We count on the president of the United States to be working 24/7 for no one except the American people,” Warren said. “No efforts to try to line his own pocket, to make a little more money for his family.
“And that’s the reason we say for a president of the United States and for others in high government office, listen, once you take that solemn oath, once you move into that position, you make sure that your financial interests are handled totally by someone else,” she said.
That’s where Warren’s bill comes in. She says if there’s a new law that tackles the issue directly, it’ll be easier to ensure Trump stays isolated from his business dealings.
“Then it won’t be an issue. It will save Trump. It will save the Republicans. And most of all it will save the United States of America a whole lot of heart ache,” Warren said.