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Whose assets are they?

November 23, 2016

Relative to the issue of placing his personal and business assets into a blind trust, President-elect Trump has been quoted as having said this week,  “In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There’s never been a case like this.”

He’s got that last part right. The first part maybe not so much.

One of the first questions that came up when Donald Trump threw his hat in the ring last year was whether he fully understood what was involved in being the 45th president.

What would he do when and if he realized that being the President is a full-time job, not a hobby?

It wasn’t just his free-wheeling unfettered lifestyle that he was betting, but his entire business legacy.

Most people were aware that the Clinton and Bush and Kennedy families and many other presidents had placed their assets in a blind trust when they assumed the nation’s top spot.

Although there is no specific law that requires a president to liquidate their holdings and place the proceeds out of reach in a trust, there is something being quoted now called the emolument clause.

It reads like this:

“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. ARTICLE I, SECTION 9, CLAUSE 8  Source:!/articles/1/essays/68/emoluments-clause

That’s why all the gifts given to presidents over the years are retained under the ownership of the entire population, i.e. the government. Technically, we could have one hell of a nice garage sale if we wanted to, because it’s our loot.

Quite frankly, that doesn’t even begin to cover the question of pre-owned assets or the potential to co-mingle public and private funds.

Over the years custom, rather than law, has gradually remodeled the original intent. Now it seems to mean that the newly minted President should not retain business or personal holdings that could potentially or do increase in value because of official  interaction with foreign governments or officials thereof. That perception or intent has never been codified.

Now that legislative oversight is being put to the test.

One interesting twist is that the only people who held Donald Trump’s wealth against him during the campaign were his political opponents.

After all, in his very first address to the nation on the day he declared, President-elect Trump made a point of noting that he was a very rich man.

That turned into almost a rallying cry for his supporters. Here was a guy who was so well off that he had no need to make deals with the Devil to get elected.

That didn’t mean they didn’t support him financially, at least to the best of their ability. People sent in small donations by the boxcar load, not because they thought they had to buy his loyalty, but because they didn’t need to. The average donation at one point in the campaign was under $75 per person, but it added up to tens of millions every month.

Still, and particularly given all the allegations of pay to play leveled against Hillary Clinton, the idea that he could personally profit while he is the sitting President isn’t lost on the nation.

That was supposedly going to be a nonissue because he would sign over all his holdings to his children.

Not perhaps a great wall between him and his money, but sufficient for most of his base. After all, the Constitution doesn’t require a vow to assume a life of sack cloth and ashes to be elected.

For the record, let us note that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson did not sell off Mount Vernon or Monticello before taking the oath of office and after serving, picked right up where they left off making money from their farms and estates.

If the tumult in the media has any basis in fact, the original deal is being tested mostly by the possibility that none of the Trump children will be firewalled from their father in any way, personally, professionally or politically.

As great as his kids seem to be, the country did not elect them to be co-presidents with their father.

Despite the last year and a half of history, the media and the left seems to expect that President-elect Trump is going to magically conform to their idea of a “politician.”

Whether for good or ill, the term of the 45th President is unlikely to conform to many of the political norms.

Of course the left was going to make a big deal of a blind trust, because that’s what politicians do.

From a strictly legal standpoint, there may be little else they can do about stripping him of his assets but pitch a fit and stand ready to pounce at the slightest hint of self-dealing.

Logistically, this could turn out to be a more significant distraction than a new administration needs in the first 100 days.

All it’s going to take is for some Middle East potentate to book the Mar a Lago Club for a weekend, and the brown stuff is going to hit the fan.

Perhaps the new transition team could come up with some variation on a pre-nup?

From → op-ed

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