Donald Trump is milking the technical point that, as president, he would not be legally required to wrest himself from conflicts of interests for all it’s worth. “I have a no-conflict situation, because I’m president,” he said during his Wednesday press conference, after explaining that he just turned down a $2 billion development deal in Dubai. (An admission that raises several million follow-up questions!) This allows Trump to portray every nod toward ethical best practices—and “nod” is generous—as him going above and beyond what is required of him. We are expected to bow.
After taking a few questions on Wednesday, Trump ceded the dais to a tax lawyer, a piece of work named Sheri Dillon. Even though Trump doesn’t have to do anything to isolate himself from conflicts of interest, Dillon explained, “President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests.” She went on to explain exactly how Trump is not completely isolating himself from his business interests.
His assets “have or will be conveyed to a trust by Jan. 20.” His sons Eric and Don Jr. will take over managerial control of the company, and Trump will theoretically never talk to them about business. The company has hired an ethics adviser who will have final say over major company decisions. The company will not make any “new foreign deals” during the course of Trump’s presidency.
This is not, as Dillon promised, a “complete isolation from his business interests,” because it’s not total divestment of his business assets. She explained why they didn’t do that. “Selling his assets without the rights to the brand would greatly diminish the value of the assets and create a fire sale,” she said. “President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built.” Two things. That sounds like a Donald Trump problem, not an “us” problem. Also, he could instruct a trust to manage the sale of his assets over time, to avoid the fire sale.
The most egregious announcement from Dillon, though, was that Trump has decided “that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotels to the United States Treasury. This way it is the American people who will profit.” It says something about how stupid of a country we are that Trump would even consider doing this and that people will probably give him credit for it.
Trump is simply setting up a funnel for foreign government donations to the government. Since that funnel runs through his hotel, it boosts the brand value of his hotel and, thus, Trump. It doesn’t prevent diplomats from choosing to stay in his hotel to curry favor with him. It will still flatter him, because he flatters easily. Also, we will never know if he even donates the money, because he doesn’t provide proper accounting documentation for anything, and it’s not clear how “foreign government payments” would be separately accounted for anyway. It’s a joke idea that does nothing and is stupid, and people will applaud it. This is a recurring theme in his life, which is unfortunately now ours, too.