By Jennifer Rubin – The Washington Post.
President-elect Donald Trump may think the voters don’t care about his ethical quagmire, but at some level the man who coined “Crooked Hillary” must know that the constant drumbeat of scandal, conflicts of interest and greed eventually can erode the public’s trust in its leaders. Well, Trump’s problems increasingly seem to dominate the news:
His foreign conflicts multiply. “The bank is trying to restructure some of Trump’s roughly $300 million debt as part of an attempt to reduce any conflict of interest between the loan and his presidency, according to a person familiar with the matter,” Bloomberg reports. “Normally, the removal of a personal pledge might lead to more-stringent terms. But there is little normal about this interaction.” The report continues: “Trump’s attorney general will inherit an investigation of Deutsche Bank related to stock trades for rich clients in Russia — where Trump says he plans to improve relations — and may have to deal with a possible multibillion-dollar penalty to the bank related to mortgage-bond investigations. Whatever terms a restructured loan might include, they will reflect the complex new relationship spawned between Germany’s largest bank and its highest-profile client. Ethicists say this concerns them.” It should concern a lot of Americans — including Trump’s attorney general pick, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), who arguably should recuse himself to prevent the appearance of a conflict of interest. This is what happens when administration officials know what Trump owns — they inevitably get accused of doing the boss a “favor.”
Meanwhile, in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, ranking member Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is demanding the secretary of state nominee, Rex Tillerson, turn over his tax records. In a statement, Cardin explained to fellow Democrats on the committee:
I have not yet received 3 years’ worth of the nominee’s tax returns, which I have formally requested the Presidential Transition Team make available for review. Senator Corker and I have a disagreement about the need to review the nominee’s tax returns. I think it is an important part of vetting this candidate because he has never made public disclosures of this type, as he has worked at ExxonMobil for his entire career and has never been in public service. Mr. Tillerson was actively engaged with many foreign governments that could become relevant if confirmed as Secretary of State. The Senate has a responsibility to review all relevant documents during the confirmation process.
The issue remains unresolved, and Cardin promises to review the answers to financial queries on the standard questionnaire.
What does this have to do with Trump? Well, if it is inappropriate for the secretary of state to have financial holdings that pose a conflict, how can the president not be held to the same standard? That’s the implicit question here.