Trump Overseas Business Conflicts ‘Can’t be Unwound’
The author of a new report that alleges Donald Trump’s businesses overseas have conflicts with America’s interests said Wednesday that the Republican presidential nominee “makes money by aiding the people whose interests don’t coincide with America’s.”
“The interests of these businesses, the interests of these politicians, often go directly against the interests of American national security. So right now you have Donald Trump in a situation where he makes money by aiding the people whose interests don’t coincide with America’s,” Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald told CNN’s Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota on “New Day,” adding later, “The important thing here is this is an entanglement that can’t be unwound.”
The Newsweek report raised a series of questions about how Trump would handle the countless conflicts of interests inherent in his overseas business interests.
Trump has said he plans to entrust his business to his children if he is elected president, a move that would only partially distance Trump from his massive corporation and do little to quell questions about influence-peddling and conflicts of interest.
“From what I’m hearing, Trump is planning to say that he will put the company in a blind trust — which is sort of like saying ‘I have 100 million shares of Apple stock and I’m going to put it in a blind trust,'” Eichenwald said. “He would know what’s there, he knows who his partners are and he knows, you know, he will know going forward.”
“Now, in the future, you’re talking about giving money to either the family of the President of the United States or money that will go to the President of the United States if his company is in this, you know, blind trust.”
CNN has reached out to the Trump campaign for comment on the report and has not yet received a response.
Ivanka Trump also discussed the future of the Trump business empire if her father wins the presidency during an interview on “CBS This Morning” on Wednesday. Asked what the family would do to prevent potential conflicts of interest, she said that “as a private business, we can make decisions that are not in our best interest.”
“There’s something so much bigger than our business at stake, and that’s the future of this country,” she said. “We can say, you know what, we’ll do less deals, and not going to do that deal even though it’s a fine deal and economically reasonable because it could create a conflict of interest. And we’ll act incredibly responsibly, and my father already said he would put it into a blind trust and it would be run by us.”
The report outlines a series of potential conflicts of interests, from Trump’s dealings with businessmen who have been the subject of government investigations in India and Turkey to his ties to powerful Russian oligarchs.
On “New Day,” Eichenwald explained why Turkey would be problematic for the Republican nominee. He said that a failed business deal between Trump and a politically-connected organzation in the country had created potential tension between Trump and the President Recep Erdogan, who had called the deal a “mistake.”
“What I am being told is that Turkey’s cooperation with the United States, in terms of providing an air base where we are able to launch bombers against ISIS would be at risk if Donald Trump was president,” he said.
And where Trump has suggested significant changes to US foreign policy, the Newsweek report magnified some of Trump’s business dealings.
Trump, who has floated the idea of Japan and South Korea obtaining nuclear weapons, maintains an ongoing business relationship with Daewoo Engineering and Construction, according to Newsweek. Daewoo is one of the top South Korean companies involved in nuclear energy projects.
In India, Newsweek raised questions about Trump’s ties to powerful businessmen and political parties in the country, particularly in light of promises from Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., to build “a very aggressive pipeline” there with “exciting new projects” to come.
“If he plays tough with India, will the government assume it has to clear the way for projects in that ‘aggressive pipeline’ and kill the investigations involving Trump’s (Indian business) partners? And if Trump takes a hard line with Pakistan, will it be for America’s strategic interests or to appease Indian government officials who might jeopardize his profits from Trump Towers Pune?” Eichenwald wrote.
Eichenwald also discussed potentially problematic connections between Trump and Russian oligarchs under the political umbrella of Russian President Vladimir Putin.
One such connection comes from a deal in which the GOP nominee attempted to license the Trump name to an organization in Russia. Eichenwald said that “the head of that organization, who, again, very politically connected, very tied in to the Putin government, backed away from the deal because Trump wanted too much money.”
Trump would undoubtedly have the most expansive and complex international business portfolio of any president in US history, which would bring an added layer of scrutiny to nearly every foreign policy decision Trump would make as president.
Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign sought to jump on the story Wednesday by tweeting 20 questions that they would like Trump to answer about Eichenwald’s report.
“Will you sever ties with your company linked to foreign leaders, questionable organizations, and criminals if you become president,” read the first.
The questions also hit Trump for not releasing his tax returns, his business connections and his ability to separate his responsibilities as president with his businesses ventures.
“How can we be sure you’d be willing to be tough on any nation if necessary, if it would put your interests and profits at risk?” asked another question.
A close examination by Newsweek of the Trump Organization revealed a web of contractual entanglements that could not be just canceled. If Trump moves into the White House and his family continues to receive any benefit from the company, during or even after his presidency, almost every foreign policy decision he makes will raise serious conflicts of interest and ethical quagmires.
In short, because Donald J. Trump would hand over the control of his company that rakes in millions to his children, even with a blind trust as he promised, any policy decision that he would make he would already be aware of any negative or positive impact on his children and their company.
Some of his children are even acting as advisors to his campaign and have helped to write policy proposals, which as they mentioned during the RNC, they plan on continuing in this capacity during Trump’s presidency. This will unquestionably effect their decision-making as the head of a multi-million dollar company, that can skew policy to help their bottom line.
This level of conflict of interest would be undoubtedly seen as a vulnerability by foreign governments who could use the Trump Organization’s interests as leverage in their foreign policies or negotiations with the United States.
Some, but not all, of these concerns could be assuaged if Donald Trump would simply release his tax returns. But to be truly clear of any conflict of interest, as he once suggested of the Clinton Foundation, the Trump Organization should be shut down immediately, contracts canceled, and money returned back to their owners.
It is a long read, but to fully understand the massive scope of this damaging issue, one must read in its entirety.