|CONTACT: Jordan Libowitz
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WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has exposed serious shortcomings in executive branch ethics laws that threaten our democracy and must be addressed, according to a report issued today by Public Citizen and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). The report outlines specific policy reforms, ranging from requiring that presidents divest assets that pose a risk of conflict of interest and disclose tax returns and other detailed financial information to implementing a broader nepotism law and banning preferential treatment in security clearances for a president’s family member.
Trump differs starkly from all of his modern day predecessors – and likely all presidents in U.S. history – due to the breadth of his assets, his refusal to divest himself of those assets and his disregard for avoiding conflicts of interest as a check on government corruption, the groups said.
Trump’s decision to retain his financial interests in the Trump Organization set the tone for the present ethics crisis. He has used the presidency to promote his business interests, and serious questions have been raised about whether his business interests have improperly influenced his decisions in office. That’s why all modern presidents before Trump have generally divested themselves of such interests.
“No president has pushed the ethical boundaries like Trump,” said Lisa Gilbert, vice president of legislative affairs for Public Citizen. “Trump has shown utter disregard for the norms of avoiding conflicts of interest as a check on government corruption. The only silver lining is that because of Trump, we now know how to strengthen the system against future presidents who lack an ethical compass.”
“Many of the unprecedented ethical problems we see with this administration stem from President Trump’s failure to divest from his businesses,” CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said. “This administration’s catastrophic ethical failings have provided a clear road map of the gaps in our system of presidential ethics which must be filled. If Congress does not address these problems and fix this inherently broken system, then Trump won’t be the exception – he’ll likely be the start of a new trend.”
The groups identified four areas of reform: