Sons to Run Trump Business via Trust; Ethicists Still See Conflict
Just hours after President-elect Donald J. Trump said he would not sell his vast business empire and would instead hand it over to a trust controlled by his two oldest sons, the government’s top ethics monitor said his plan was wholly inadequate and would leave the president vulnerable to “suspicions of corruption.”
就在候任总统唐纳德·J·特朗普(Donald J. Trump)称他不会出售自己庞大的商业帝国，而是将其交给两个大儿子控制的一个信托机构几个小时后，政府最高道德监察官员说他的计划根本不周全，容易令总统受到“腐败的怀疑”。
The unusual public criticism from Walter M. Shaub Jr., director of the Office of Government Ethics, followed Mr. Trump’s most detailed explanation yet of his plans to distance himself from the global business operations of the Trump Organization. No modern president has entered the White House with such a complicated array of holdings.
在政府道德事务办公室(Office of Government Ethics)主任沃尔特·M·肖布(Walter M. Shaub)罕见地公开发表批评意见之前，特朗普对自己同特朗普集团(Trump Organization)的全球业务保持距离的计划进行了迄今为止最详细的解释。现代历史上尚没有哪位总统带着如此复杂的一系列资产入主白宫。
The specific steps Mr. Trump outlined include turning over to the United States Treasury any profits received at his hotels from foreign government clients. An ethics officer and, separately, a chief compliance counsel will be appointed at the Trump Organization to watch its operations and ensure that it is not receiving special terms, payment or favors as a result of its ties to Mr. Trump, even as the organization is managed by a trust controlled by his two oldest sons and a longtime legal associate.
The president-elect, speaking at a news conference Wednesday in Trump Tower, repeated his view, expressed shortly after his election, that as president, he will be exempt from conflict of interest laws that apply to all other federal employees with the exception of the vice president. But he and his legal team said he would still take voluntary steps to avoid even a perception of a conflict, such as the appearance that a decision he made as president might benefit one of his business ventures.
But Mr. Trump and his advisers would not release basic information about this plan. Mr. Trump has filed information with the federal government that indicates he is worth at least $1.5 billion, but that information has not been independently verified, and the value of the assets being transferred into the trust is not known.
Mr. Trump’s representatives would also not release the names of people who stand to benefit from any profits the trust might generate, or say whether Mr. Trump would be able to reverse the transaction. On Wednesday, Mr. Trump rebuffed a renewed call to release his tax returns, which presidents have done for decades and which would show how much profit Mr. Trump makes from his businesses endeavors, including golf courses, marketing deals and commercial office space.
Mr. Shaub, who was appointed to the ethics post by President Obama, said that he did not believe that selling assets was too high a price to pay to be president, and that Mr. Trump must divest them in order to avoid conflicts of interest.
“We can’t risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for profit,” said Mr. Shaub, whose office establishes ethical standards for 2.7 million civilian employees in the White House and more than 130 executive branch agencies. “I appreciate that divestiture can be costly. But the president-elect would not be alone in making that sacrifice.”
Mr. Shaub criticized Mr. Trump’s decision to put his assets into a trust, instead of under the far stricter control of an independent manager, known as a blind trust.
“The only thing this has in common with a blind trust is the label, ‘trust,’” Mr. Shaub said during an unusual news conference held Wednesday at the Brookings Institution, a policy research center in Washington. “His sons are still running the businesses, and, of course, he knows what he owns.”
Even some Republican ethics experts questioned how far Mr. Trump had gone to confront the many ethical issues he faces. They noted, for example, that Mr. Trump did not promise to prohibit communication between federal employees and anyone at Trump Organization, or his current or future business partners.
“If you don’t have a real firewall, outsiders will view doing business with the Trump Organization as a way to gain access to the administration or to influence it,” said Matthew T. Sanderson, a Washington lawyer who worked on the Republican presidential campaigns of John McCain, Rand Paul and Rick Perry.
“如果没有真正的防火墙，外人就会把和特朗普集团做生意当作一种接触或影响联邦政府的途径，”曾在约翰·麦凯恩(John McCain)、兰德·保罗(Rand Paul)和里克·佩里(Rick Perry)的总统竞选团队任职的华盛顿律师马修·T·桑德森(Matthew T. Sanderson)说。
In fact, Mr. Trump and his legal advisers seemed on Wednesday to revise an earlier promise that the president-elect had made on Twitter in December, pledging that there would be “no new deals” by his company while he was in the White House.
Now, his legal team said, this standard will only apply to new foreign deals. The company will continue to look for new business opportunities — be it hotels, golf courses or other ventures — within the United States at a time when the Trump Organization brand has an unrivaled profile.
Instead, the Trump enterprise will clear new transactions with an ethics adviser to be named by the president-elect in the coming days. That person will vet them for potential conflicts, using a standard that Mr. Trump’s advisers said had not yet been decided. A spokeswoman for Mr. Trump said he had always intended the “no new deals” promise to apply only to foreign deals.
The influence Mr. Trump will have over foreign and domestic policy as president has raised questions about whether American policy could affect his bottom line. For instance, he will oversee the regulation of banks, some of which lend money to his company, and he will have frequent contact with foreign heads of state, including some who run countries where the Trump Organization does business.
Mr. Trump and his legal team appeared to be particularly sensitive to the suggestion that Mr. Trump might violate the so-called emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits federal employees from taking any “present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state.”
Sheri A. Dillon, a longtime lawyer for the Trump Organization from the leading Washington law firm Morgan Lewis, said that this clause, in her view, did not apply to market-value transactions such as a foreign government’s paying a hotel bill. But to try to address the question, the Trump Organization plans to donate to the federal government the “profits” derived from any payments from foreign governments to hotels it owns. Representatives of the organization did not reply when asked how this calculation would be made or whether a public accounting of the payments would be provided.
长期服务于特朗普集团的华盛顿顶级律所摩根路易斯(Morgan Lewis)律师谢莉·A·迪龙(Sheri A. Dillon)说，该条款并不适用于以市场价值为基础的交易，例如外国政府支付入住酒店的费用。不过，为了应对这一问题，特朗普集团计划将旗下酒店因外国政府官员入住而产生的“利润”捐给联邦政府。当被问及利润将如何计算以及是否会公开相关付款信息时，特朗普集团的代表未作回应。
But Trump Organization officials said this agreement would not apply to golf courses or other businesses. That means Mr. Trump could still benefit from payments by foreign governments, critics said.
Erwin Chemerinsky, the dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law, also said the plan to turn over profits derived from foreign government payments to Mr. Trump’s hotels was not sufficient to eliminate the constitutional issue.
加州大学欧文分校(University of California, Irvine)法学院院长埃尔温·舍梅林斯基(Erwin Chemerinsky)也表示，把外国政府官员入住特朗普的酒店所产生的利润交出去的计划，不足以彻底解决宪法问题。
“As soon as he receives the payment, he will have benefited, even if he later decides to give it away,” Mr. Chemerinsky said. “This will mean he will have violated a provision of the Constitution.”