Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka Trump are all on the president-elect’s transition team executive committee, per ABC’s Candace Smith, as is Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
But according to regulators who have overseen potential conflicts of interests under two former presidents, Trump’s arrangements were unprecedented and present a host of issues.
This is in no way a blind trust, said Karl Sandstrom, former chairman of the Federal Election Commission (FEC), the regulatory body that oversees campaign finance, under Bill Clinton and George W Bush. “A blind trust is not anywhere near the same. You don’t still have access to the decision being made. That’s why you put assets in and don’t just have someone else manage the company,” he said. Trump’s assets will instead apparently remain united under his company, and operated under his name even if he is not directly in charge.
“Reagan spent some time in the private sector but he certainly wasn’t a CEO,” said Robert Lenhard, also a former FEC chair, appointed by George W Bush. “He wasn’t operating a set of companies like Trump is. Most of our presidents have come out of political careers – Eisenhower’s time out of office was mostly a hiatus between the military and the presidency.”
Trump owns hotels in Chicago, New York City, Las Vegas, Waikiki and, most recently, in Washington DC, just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. As with any hotel chain, the Trump Organization will oversee power, water, maintenance, security, billing and any number of other logistical details that will now essentially be negotiated between the provider and the family of the president.
Abroad, Trump holds properties in Istanbul, where his election was met with satisfaction by that country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, as well as Mumbai, Vancouver and Seoul, among many others. With Trump’s children running his businesses, there is 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.
From his financial filings, the future US leader also appears to be a shareholder or beneficiary of several entities headquartered abroad, among them Excel Venture LLC in the French West Indies, and Caribusiness Investments SRL, based in the Dominican Republic. How Trump’s holdings in those countries will affect US relations with them remains to be seen; both are notable for their use in finance to avoid taxes. Trump has promised to cut the rate for repatriating cash into the US as an incentive for others who, like him, keep taxable funds overseas.
In Azerbaijan, Trump has a real estate project he said was “on hold” during the presidential campaign. His partner in the endeavor was Anar Mammadov, son of the Iranian transportation minister, Ziya Mammadov, who was accused in diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 of laundering money.
In Russia, where Trump’s election has been met with congratulations by President Vladimir Putin, Trump worked closely with the Russian-born American financier Felix H Sater, managing director of the New York-based firm Bayrock LLC. Sater and Bayrock founder Tevfik Arif worked closely with Trump and others in his organization. In a deposition, Trump said that he had discussed “numerous deals all over the world” with Arif, and that Arif had brought potential Russian investors to meet Trump at his office, according to a report in the New York Times.
Bayrock was examined closely during a lawsuit filed by its former finance director, Jody Kriss; the Times said the firm had “occasionally received unexplained infusions of cash from accounts in Kazakhstan and Russia”.
Get ready for our new dynastic kleptocracy, brought to us by Trumpland. Trump voters say they want things shaken up. Let's see if they think 'shaken down' falls under that heading.