President-elect Donald Trump has yet to find a convincing answer to the conflicts-of-interest that his vast business empire will pose as he takes the oath of office.
Breitbart News editor Peter Schweizer, author of Clinton Cash, suggests that Trump divest himself of his real estate holdings — which would solve most of the problem, though at a massive cost, and over a long period.
The Trump business also goes beyond real estate to the Trump brand itself, which is inseparable from the man.
Incoming White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus tells reporters the White House lawyers will make sure there are no conflicts of interest: “Obviously we will comply with all of those laws and we will have our White House counsel review all of these things,” he told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday.
“We will have every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed, and I can assure the American people that there wouldn’t be any wrongdoing or any sort of undue influence over any decision-making.”
Yet the White House counsel, who serve at the pleasure of the president, may have additional conflicts of interest. And while they can monitor decisions made by the government to ensure that none of Trump’s businesses benefits directly, they will be more restricted in their ability to examine business decisions being made outside of government, in response to government cues.
Clearly, a more independent authority is needed to ensure transparency and prevent even the appearance of corruption.
One possible solution would be the appointment of a “special auditor” — an independent official, perhaps a retired judge, who would be able to monitor both the White House and the Trump business empire, and report to Congress on something like a quarterly basis.
That way, the Trump family would not have to unwind their impossibly complex business investments and entanglements — but the public would have some protection against corruption and conflicts of interest in the White House.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.