WASHINGTON – At his press conference today, President-elect Donald Trump left it up to his lawyer to announce that he will not divest himself of ownership of the Trump business empire, not even when it comes to making a profit from lobbyists attempting to curry his favor by staying at his hotels.
The announcement about his business plans was all but drowned out by his diversionary, sleight-of-hand showmanship.
His megalomania and his lack of regard for truth were both on full display.
Trump had promised to hold a press conference last December 15 to address how he would deal with the fact that his worldwide holdings create many conflicts of interest between his raking in profits and his duties to serve the public interest.
It never took place.
Instead, he chose January 11, 2017, a time when the Senate is conducting some 16 televised hearings and meetings to supposedly examine conflicts between his Cabinet nominees raking in profits and their duty to serve the public.
Observers concluded that the press conference was timed to divert Americans from seeing for themselves that most of Trump’s picks are billionaires like himself who are rife with conflict of interest issues.
But it turned out that the press conference itself was set up to divert as much attention as possible away from the fact that Trump has no intention on slowing down his various money-making machines while he serves as President.
Most of the conference was taken up by Trump, along with White House press secretary-to-be Sean Spicer and Vice President-elect Mike Pence blasting as “fake news” a report by U.S. intelligence services that Russia has information that could “comprise” Trump.
In his remarks, Trump himself said not one word about his conflicts of interest or his plans for his business empire.
Instead, he gave what seemed to be a campaign speech.
Trump time and again attacked Hillary Clinton for one thing or the other. He repeated one of the falsehoods of his campaign stump speech, the one about Clinton being fed “answers to debate questions” beforehand. (The truth is, she received in advance one question that was to be discussed at a forum. The person responsible was fired by the Democratic Party).
He continued his “I and I alone” theme by saying “I will be the greatest job producer that God ever created – I really mean that.”
As evidence, he lied about the number of jobs he “saved” at the Carrier plant in Indiana and about the number of jobs that will be created by an alliance he is trying to make between himself and China’s Alibaba internet sales company.
When he finally turned to his plans for his business empire, he turned the press conference over to his lawyer, Sheri Dillon, who explained that while Trump serves as president, his sons, Eric and Don Junior will run his business. She said that although they will continue to make “domestic” deals, they will make “no new” foreign ones.
She said that despite the fact that last week Eric Trump assured a newspaper in Argentina that his family was “in the first phase” of a building project in Buenos Aires.
Dillon repeated several times that the President is exempt from conflict of interest laws, which is true.
Trump himself bragged that he could “run the country” and “run the business” at the same time and “do a good job.” But, he said, he won’t because of how it would “look.”
So why doesn’t he just divest himself of his empire or sell it? Why will he keep raking in profits from it while his sons manage it?
Every other president has put their holdings in a blind trust.
Dillion said a blind trust wouldn’t work in Trump’s case because unlike other presidents, his assets are brick and mortar buildings. “He can’t just forget he owns Trump Tower,” she said.
That’s also true, and was reported in PeoplesWorld last November.
In that article, we quoted ethics experts who said because a blind trust wouldn’t work in Trump’s case, he should not be running for president.
What about the fact that lobbyists are already booking rooms in Trump hotels in order to gain his favor?
Well, Dillion said, from now on Trump will give to the U.S. Treasury “all profits” he makes from such bookings. She did not say how these “profits” will be calculated nor how that arrangement eliminates the appearance of Trump benefiting from people staying at his hotel. In fact, such an arrangement would yield Trump a fortune in public relations.
Trump refused to call on any reporter who works for a media outlet that has been critical of him, but he did take one question about releasing his income taxes.
“The public doesn’t care about my income taxes,” Trump said.
However, a recent poll by the Pew Research Center shows that the public cares very much.
Perhaps as the public becomes more and more aware of what Trump is up to, that caring will turn into organized opposition.