Democrats Introduce Legislation Targeting Trump on Conflicts

The bill would force Trump to divest his business interests and release his tax returns.

Evan Vucci/AP

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Congressional Democrats filed new legislation on Monday in both the House and Senate that would force Donald Trump and future presidents to obey the same strict conflict-of-interest laws governing other federal officials.

In 11 days, Trump is poised to enter the White House with unprecedented conflicts. His public disclosures of his personal finances show interests in hundreds of businesses, billions in assets, and more than $700 million in debts—including entanglements with foreign investors and lenders. Trump has said he will only step back from overseeing the businesses he owns, but he has so far declined to divest any of his assets (or the debts attached to them), citing the fact that federal conflict-of-interest laws exempt the president and vice president. The legislation introduced by congressional Democrats would remove this exemption and categorize a violation of conflict-of-interest regulations as an impeachable offense.

Democrats have hammered Trump over his conflicts, but with little Republican support they have so far failed to get much traction. The new legislation will face similar hurdles—Republicans are unlikely to allow the measure to even come to a vote—but it could serve as a pressure point on Republicans who have been dodging the issue.

“The only way for President-elect Trump to truly eliminate conflicts of interest is to divest his financial interests by placing them in a blind trust,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, the lead Democrat sponsoring the Senate’s version of the bill. “This has been the standard for previous presidents, and our bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same.”

In addition to requiring the president to transfer his conflict-causing assets into a blind trust overseen by an independent trustee, the bill would prohibit presidential appointees from working on any issue that would benefit the financial interests of the president and the president’s immediate family. In Trump’s case, such a provision could block his appointees from matters ranging from Justice Department settlement talks with Deutsche Bank (Trump’s biggest lender) to foreign policy decisions involving countries, such as Turkey, where the Trump Organization has business interests. The legislation also folds in a measure, previously sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), that would require the sitting president and nominees of the major parties to publicly release their tax records.

Watchdog groups that have been calling for Trump to take action applauded the legislation.

“A second-grader could see that the only solution to this pervasive problem is for President-elect Trump to sell off the family business,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “Because there is no sign he intends to do this, it is incumbent on the Congress to force him to do so. That’s why immediate passage of Senator Warren’s legislation is desperately needed.”

Read the full version of the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act legislation here.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate