When it comes to addressing conflicts of interest, Donald Trump’s plan has always been not to have a plan—or at least not one with enough specificity to actually matter. Prior to the election, he promised to solve the problem by creating a blind trust that was by definition not blind. After the election, he made a big show of walling himself off from his business empire without actually taking the steps needed to do it. And now, Forbes’ Dan Alexander provides yet one more piece of evidence that the Trumps DGAF.*
In the course of reporting on a story about the Trump family’s friends and business partners, Alexander spoke with Eric Trump in his office at Trump Tower:
One minute, he promises to never talk about the business with his father while he serves in the White House. Less than two minutes later, he says he will update his father on the company's financials “probably quarterly.”
If we take Eric at his word, the much-hyped firewall between the president and the business that bears his name will swing wide open around four times a year. (Trump’s lawyers had previously claimed the president would “sharply limit his information rights,” but provided few specifics.) Another reading of probably quarterly, though, is that Eric Trump hadn’t bothered to even think about how, when, and how often he’ll update his father until Alexander asked him. That’s troubling in its own way, since not deciding is a decision of its own, and it’s these type of nondecision decisions that have largely allowed the Trumps to continue to do whatever they want without being accountable to the American public.
Consider their much-hyped promise to give the Treasury Department any profits the Trump Organization makes from foreign government officials staying at one of its hotels, a decision Trump’s lawyers suggested was made out of an abundance of caution as not to violate the U.S. Constitution’s Emoluments Clause. Noticeably absent from the January announcement were the details, and when the Trump Organization finally began to provide them this week, it became clear that it won’t be actually making any such donations until 2018 at the earliest. Given what we’ve seen so far, Treasury officials probably shouldn’t hold their breath. Similarly, the company claims to have a comprehensive vetting process in place for any business dealings—and yet it won’t say what that process is or explain why it didn’t stop the company from selling a $16 million Park Avenue penthouse to a woman with ties to Chinese military intelligence, as Mother Jones discovered.
This isn’t limited to the Trump Organization. Earlier this week, Politico reported that Ivanka Trump now has her own West Wing office and “is in the process of a obtaining security clearance.” That same day, the New York Times reported on her continued influence over the Ivanka Trump brand and vague attempts to steer clear of ethics violations. So now Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner, are both officially advising the president from offices inside the White House while retaining stakes in their own companies. Under federal law, it is illegal for either to participate “personally and substantially” in any government matter that will affect their own financial interests. The White House, however, has avoided saying what areas of policy each is involved in and which ones they will recuse themselves from. That raises plenty of big questions, but it simultaneously prevents the public from learning the more important answers.
This all, then, leaves two options: Either the Trumps really haven’t bothered to think this stuff through in any detail—or they did, and quickly realized the American public wouldn’t like the results.
*Correction, March 23, 2017: This post originally misstated that a Forbes article by Dan Alexander appeared in Fortune.