Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Peter Schweizer, president of the Government Accountability Institute and author of the best-selling Clinton Cash, discussed President-elect Donald Trump’s decision to dissolve his Trump Foundation on Tuesday’s Breitbart News Daily.
He explained to SiriusXM host Raheem Kassam that the Trump Foundation was a “little bit different, in a number of respects” from the Clinton Foundation, which became a major issue for candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
“The Trump Foundation, by and large, is what’s called a ‘grant-giving’ foundation,” Schweizer said. “They would raise money – much of it came from the Trump family – and then they would take that money and give it to charitable organizations. It might be veterans groups. It would be community groups. There’s a whole long list of people they’ve given money to over the years.”
“Unlike the Clinton Foundation – which, first of all, is much larger and had an infrastructure where they had a lot of employees; they ran their own programs – the Trump Foundation was really about giving grant money to other charitable organizations for the work they’re doing,” he noted.
Schweizer said that based on Trump’s announcement, it looks like there will be an “immediate cessation” of the Trump Foundation’s work, which should address conflict-of-interest concerns.
“I’ve got to tell you, this is what leadership looks like,” he said. “Consider what Donald Trump has done voluntarily. This is not something that was imposed on him by somebody else. In the case of the Clintons, you know Barack Obama forced the Clintons into doing a lot of things they didn’t want to do, when she became secretary of state.”
“Donald Trump has voluntarily now said, ‘I’m going to stop the Trump Foundation. It’s not going to exist. We’re no longer going to launch new business projects overseas, meaning major projects like hotels, et cetera, which is a huge concession.’ And he is going to be setting up a structure to, as best can be done given the legal constraints, remove himself from the decision-making of the Trump organization,” Schweizer said.
“These are all being done voluntarily. I’m extremely encouraged,” he declared. “I was worried that these avenues for conflicts of interest were going to remain. But honestly, this is what leadership looks like. He says, ‘Look, I become president, this is my prime responsibility. I’m going to do what I can to remove barriers and remove things in my way that could create conflicts of interest and trouble.’ So it’s very, very encouraging, and it’s a nice change from the Clintons, where they would have to be dragged screaming and yelling to make even the most minor concession to a possible conflict of interest.”
Schweizer agreed there was “legitimate criticism of the Trump Foundation” and its spending priorities, after Kassam humorously observed that one of those priorities appeared to be purchasing $20,000 portraits of Donald Trump.
“We are going to continue to monitor the leadership of the Trump administration, including Donald Trump himself and the children, for conflicts of interest,” Schweizer pledged. “It’s one thing to say, ‘We’re not gonna do new major projects. We’re going to remove me from the decision-making process.’ It’s another thing to make sure that it stays that way; that’s actually how it operates. So I agree with you that the monitoring has to take place.”
“My concern, however, was going forward that Trump had won, Trump would feel his position was solidified enough that he would go about as he pleased, that the Trump Foundation would remain in operation,” he continued. “Remember that just last year, after he had announced and was doing pretty well in the polls, the Trump Foundation received a donation from Viktor Pinchuk, who’s a Ukrainian oligarch. This is somebody who gave a lot of money to the Clinton Foundation and got a lot of favors from the Clintons in return, so there was some very real concern that it was going to be business as usual.”
“The news that they are going to shut these things down is very encouraging to me,” Schweizer said. “It indicates that, first of all, he recognizes these things are a problem. Second of all, that he recognizes that they are a political vulnerability, that if you are going to, as one of your banners carrying forward is ‘we’re going to drain the swamp of Washington, D.C.,’ it’s a political vulnerability if you yourself are seen as a creature of that swamp.”
“Look, I’m not saying that everything is done, everything is taken care of, everything is the place that it should be,” he added. “But I’m very encouraged that these steps are being taken voluntarily to prevent these conflicts of interest, at least on the face of appearance, of causing a problem. I think that is grounds for celebration. If you contrast that with the Clintons, when Hillary became secretary of state – Barack Obama put very few restrictions on them, but the ones that he did, the Clintons fought tooth and nail, disclosing who the donors were. So this is a nice contrast to what I think we would have had with Bill and Hillary Clinton, which would have been complete business as usual.”
Kassam asked about journalist complaints that Trump has not given a press conference recently, noting that many of these same journalists were perfectly comfortable with Hillary Clinton avoiding press conferences for hundreds of days during the presidential campaign.
“I don’t think Donald Trump is obligated to do a press interview right now,” Schweizer contended. “He’s not the President of the United States. He’s a private citizen who will very soon be the most powerful figure in the world, but no, he’s not under any obligation.”
“I do think, obviously, when you become President of the United States that you need to subject yourself to questioning. The process, of course, is different in the U.K., where you have Question Time, opposition political figures ask you questions. In the United States, I think you need to give the media the opportunity to do that,” he added.
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