Trump’s Russia And Newly Discovered Iran Connection Take White House Into Uncharted Territory
The checks and balances of power are likely to be tested when president-elect Donald Trump enters the White House next year. With no blind trust and his children running his company, the business mogul-reality TV star-turned-president will bring with him potential conflicts of interest across all areas of government that are unprecedented in American history.
Trump, who manages a murky international network of businesses has refused to put his businesses into a blind trust the way his predecessors in the nation’s highest office have traditionally done.
During the campaign, Trump also refused to release his tax returns, claiming he couldn’t do it because “he is being audited.” But many speculate a more sinister reason behind his refusal: Trump’s tax records would reveal questionable connections with dictators and mafia-like enterprises.
Trump has said his businesses will be run by his own adult children, who will have access to the White House. Trump’s eldest child, Donald Trump Jr, has insisted that Trump’s holdings would go into a trust managed by him and his siblings Eric and Ivanka Trump.
“We’re not going to be involved in government,” Trump Jr told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos in September on Good Morning America. But Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka Trump are all on the president-elect’s transition team executive committee and nothing can prevent Trump’s political and business careers from crossing into each other.
There’s also the matter of their bearing his name, and thus the name of the president, anywhere in the world when they arrive to negotiate leases and construction deals.
According to officials who have overseen potential conflicts of interests under two former presidents, Trump’s arrangements with Russia and a newly discovered partnership with an Iranian financier are unprecedented, and present a host of issues.
In Russia, where Trump’s election has been met with congratulations by President Vladimir Putin, Trump worked closely with Russian financier Felix H Sater on several business deals. There’s also Trump’s ties to Paul Manafort, who ran his campaign from March to August and helped to install Putin ally Viktor Yanukovych as president in Ukraine, was named in a corruption investigation by a Ukrainian authority working with the FBI.
In Iran, financial filings obtained by The times revealed that Trump has a real estate project in Azerbaijan with partner Anar Mammadov, son of the Iranian transportation minister, Ziya Mammadov, who was accused in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks of money laundering.
Then there is the matter of Trump’s stock portfolio. The president-elect has holdings in Dakota Access pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners. In his first 100 days, Trump has pledged to remove every impediment to the pipeline, which has been the subject of protests violently suppressed by police in North Dakota. He also owns stock in Facebook and in Bank of America. Trump has promised to deregulate the banking industry.
Public officials below the president and vice-president are subject to conflict of interest rules. “The standards of conduct are government-wide with respect to conflicts of interest, and they are to be found in the code of federal regulations, and whether those basic rules are going to apply throughout from the top down,” said Karl Sandstrom, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
He added: “How do you enforce rules on others that you don’t abide?”