The presidential election was not two weeks ago, and The New York Times, the television punditry, and left-wing news media are already at work, trying to smear President-Elect Donald Trump with a bevy of ethics charges.
And while ethical behavior is crucial, Trump’s critics are overreaching once again, charging the president-elect with conflicts of interest before he’s even taken office.
“[The media] has not even begun yet. It’s going to be 24/7. It will be an unrelenting offensive.”
In fact, one far-left outlet, ThinkProgress, is already suggesting Trump will be in violation of the U.S. Constitution when he’s sworn in.
“Trump poised to violate Constitution his first day in office, George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer says,” wrote Ian Millhiser of ThinkProgress on Saturday.
Millhiser emailed Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota, to weave the story.
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Why Painter? Painter is not only President George W. Bush’s former ethics lawyer, but a leading “Never Trump” attorney.
Painter bitterly fought Trump every step of the way through the election, and even wrote an op-ed in the Oct. 30 edition of The New York Times suggesting FBI Director James Comey may have violated federal law by communicating with Congress about Hillary Clinton’s email investigation.
At the time, Painter was supporting Clinton for president. There were few other people Painter did not support for the White House. In the Oct. 30 op-ed, he admits: “For the sake of full disclosure, in this election I have supported Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Hillary Clinton for president, in that order.”
Now Painter has moved on to a new Trump issue: possible violation of the Constitution.
Painter told ThinkProgress that the Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause” provides that “no person holding any office of profit or trust under” the United States “shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.”
Obviously, that clause does not affect Trump now. He is still a private citizen, and does not take the oath of office until Jan. 20, 2017.
But ThinkProgress says Trump could violate the Constitution, or someone else could do it for him. In this theoretical case, foreign diplomats staying at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., could cause Trump to violate this clause simply by wishing to curry favor with Trump.
The actual clause violation would be for them to pay for a room at the hotel owned by Trump.
“The diplomats’ efforts in seek Trump’s favor by staying in his hotel ‘looks like a gift,’ Painter told ThinkProgress in an email, and thus is the very kind of favor the Constitution seeks to prevent,” according to ThinkProgress.
Painter said the problem is the diplomats are obviously trying to stay in Trump’s hotel because of the “added value that comes from doing business with the president of the United States.”
“It had better stop by Jan. 20,” Painter told ThinkProgress.
ThinkProgress is the journalistic arm of the Center for American Progress, the think tank founded by John Podesta, Democrat Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman. ThinkProgress Editor Judd Legum has already charged Trump “is in trouble,” on Twitter.
The Times and other outlets also jumped on Trump following a Thursday meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. A leaked photo showed daughter Ivanka Trump in attendance at the Trump Tower meeting.
Criticism soon followed, as Ivanka Trump doesn’t have security clearance.
The conservative editorial board of The Wall Street Journal has joined the chorus, too. The board of The Journal has suggested a total sell-off, meaning Trump should sell all of his assets and put the cash into a trust. It would be a nuclear option to avoid all conflicts.
But should a businessman really have to sell off all his assets to be president? For Trump, even transferring his assets to his children will be fraught with criticisms, as his children advise him.
The series of articles in ThinkProgress, The New York Times, and other outlets on Trump’s entirely hypothetical ethical challenges (the president-elect has not yet clarified exactly how he will divest himself from his organization) are just a preview of things to come, says one Republican historian.
“[The media] have not even begun yet,” said Craig Shirley, a presidential historian and Reagan biographer. “It’s going to be 24/7. It will be an unrelenting offensive.”
Shirley said it’s best for Trump to see what’s coming and put all of his assets into one big blind trust, possibly managed by his sons and daughters.
“It would send a good signal to the American public that he’s focused on their problems to the exclusion of everything else,” said Shirley.
Meanwhile, ThinkProgress probably hopes Trump won’t get a blind trust. Editor Judd Legum asked his readers for $100,000 to support their new “investigative fund” to hound the president-elect.