Before becoming president, Donald Trump made a promise that he would separate his government office from his business interests. He placed his assets in a trust that he would not touch while in office.
However new documentation has shown the president himself is the trust’s sole beneficiary, while the trust itself is controlled by a lifelong employee as well as his own son. The documents also show that President Trump has the legal authority to revoke the trust any time he wishes.
Allen Weisselberg, longtime employee and current chief financial officer of the Trump organization, along with Donald Trump Jr., eldest son of Donal Trump, were official given legal control a mere day before Trump himself took office.
When he became president Trump was supposed to separate himself from his business, yet he still retains full ownership, which will personally benefit him if the business makes profit off of his administration’s decisions.
Also, there are very real concerns about whether Trump can limit communication between himself and his business interests, as select family members are in charge at the moment.
“What I’m going to be doing is my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company,” Trump said before taking office. “They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss it with me.”
So far the Trump Organization has had no official response to the release of the documents.
The trust also does nothing to resolve other potential conflicts outside the Trump Organization. He still technically holds the title of executive producer for the NBC reality show, “Celebrity Apprentice.” Recently Trump made headlines by criticizing the new host, actor and former governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Representatives from NBC have remained silent on whether Trump will receive compensation for his executive producer role, but it’s worth noting that executive producers are usually paid, even when their role is nothing more than a passive credit.
Over the past few weeks the president has been removed from his leadership positions in more than 400 of the entities that encompass the Trump Organization. Other companies in which he was a part of have been dissolved completely.
Though the president no longer has any official responsibilities in the many businesses, he will still continue to earn profit from their success.
Bobby Burchfield, a long-time GOP lawyer who also advised during the Bush administration, has been named the outside ethics advisor, meaning that in theory corporate transactions could not be undertaken without his signature.
The question of ownership and profit is particularly troublesome at his Washington hotel. It’s located in the Old Post Office, which is owned by the federal government. The lease agreement for the building prohibits any elected official, including the president, from benefiting from use of the building.
At this time it’s uncertain whether putting his hotel shares in his trust will provide satisfactory legal separation as outlined in the terms of the lease.
The General Services Administration, which has control over the lease, has stated that near the end of January they received new documentation from the Trump Organization and were “reviewing and evaluating this information to assess its compliance with the terms and conditions of the Old Post Office lease.”
Democrat Congressmen, such as Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, have pushed the General Services Administration to conclude the Trump Organization is not in compliance with the lease agreement.
“This legal concoction from President Trump’s lawyers does nothing to address his conflicts of interest or the breach of the lease for his hotel,” Cummings said in a statement.