Outrage over President-elect Donald Trump’s refusal to divest himself of his global business empire has grown in the wake of his chaotic press conference Wednesday, during which he announced that he would merely hand his businesses over to his sons.
After the press conference—wherein the piles of paper displayed as “evidence” of Trump’s business handover to his sons were also apparently completely blank—the director of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) made an unusual public speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., condemning the president-elect for his ethics failures.
“I wish circumstances were different and I didn’t feel the need to make public remarks today,” said Walter M. Schaub Jr. “You don’t hear about ethics when things are going well.”
Schaub went on to delve into exactly why Trump’s business plan is wholly “meaningless”:
Trump’s transition team has also apparently not been in touch with the OGE at all about Trump’s holdings and business plans.
“I was especially troubled by the statement that the incoming administration is going to demand that OGE approve a diversified portfolio of assets,” Schaub noted. “No one has ever talked to us about that idea, and there’s no legal mechanism to do that. Instead, Congress set up OGE’s blind trust program under the Ethics in Government Act. Under that law anyone who wants a blind trust has to work with OGE from the start, but OGE has been left out of this process. We would have told them that this arrangement fails to meet the statutory requirements.”
“[E]very president in modern times has taken the strong medicine of divestiture,” Schaub noted, adding that Trump’s appointees are required by law to divest their holdings before serving in his cabinet. “Should a president hold himself to a lower standard than his own appointees?”
Moreover, the president-elect’s lawyers also stated Wednesday that Trump will go back on his “no new deals” pledge—in which he swore that his corporate empire wouldn’t involve itself in any new business contracts—and will instead refrain only from foreign deals.
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