I’ve just been made aware by some science professors at UCSC that a petition is circulating to ask our president-elect to separate himself completely from his business interests via a blind trust. The petition can be signed at https://wh.gov/ie80r. I copy below the argument for the petition:
Over the last few days, the following transpired:
- Donald Trump claims ownership interests in numerous and anonymous companies, many of which proudly owe millions of dollars to foreign banks, have holdings in foreign countries as well as the United States, and that depend on government leases, contracts, and relationships. Several of his companies bear his name as its brand;
- In the past, Presidents have placed their assets in “blind trusts” during their Presidency or divested (sold) their interests in the companies. In a true blind trust, the beneficiaries (here, Mr. Trump) would have no knowledge whatsoever about any of the companies during his Presidency and would have no ability to intervene in any business decisions of those companies during his Presidency. This makes sense, right? If otherwise, the potential conflicts of interest are in every single Presidential decision;
- Two days ago, very quietly, and hidden behind all the hate filled rhetoric and media, Mr. Trump announced that he will ignore decades of precedent and prior Presidents’ sound practice of placing their assets in a true blind trust [not one merely denominated as one] or an equivalent arrangement or otherwise divesting their holdings in a manner that would avoid both actual conflicts of interest and the appearance of impropriety;
- Instead, Mr. Trump announced on November 10, 2016 that his adult children will run and/or own and profit from his assets during his Presidency, many of which bear his name and which involve the licensing of his name;
- Mr. Trump has also declared the same adult children will be on his Transition team, in charge of selecting his Cabinet and staff members;
- These decisions have the effect of improperly and corruptly monetizing the Office of President of the United States for the benefit of Mr. Trump’s immediate family and expose that Office and President-Elect Trump to an unprecedented potential for conflicts of interest;
- Further, the decision to place all of his adult children on his Transition Executive Committee makes each political appointee in his administration beholden to Mr. Trump’s children for his or her job (the same adult children who will be running his businesses);
- Worse, Mr. Trump’s complete refusal to release any personal or business tax returns and their supporting documents leaves State Electors unable to conduct the appropriate “due diligence” on Mr. Trump that he himself would demand in his own businesses. Because of his flat refusal, we and the State Electors have no idea who he owes money to (and he brags about borrowing millions of dollars, from whom?), what foreign financial institutions have leverage or control over his businesses, or any other financial conflict of interest. We are only left to guess; and
- Once the Electoral College has voted (currently set for December 19) and the Presidential vote is certified and announced (currently set for January 6, 2017), there will be no formal check on President-Elect Trump’s inevitable conflicts of interest short of impeachment and a constitutional crisis.
These potential conflicts of interest are unprecedented. We need to act now.
Here is where we currently stand:
Each state has state Electors responsible for casting that state’s electoral votes. On Tuesday, November 8, the country voted to provide guidance to their respective state Electors on how to cast the state’s electoral vote (i.e., Colorado has 9 electoral votes; California has 55; Texas has 38). The electoral vote is currently scheduled for December 19, 2016. The constitution does not require adherence to any popular vote, state or federal, although Electors could surely be informed by it. However, in an election like this one, where 2 million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton nationwide (estimated that she will end up winning national popular vote by 5 million votes), the state Electors need to be informed voters now more than ever. Tellingly, no state Elector has ever been fined, prosecuted, other otherwise formally censured for failing to follow his or her party’s direction as to a vote or his or her State’s law requiring a certain vote.
OK — SO — NOW WHAT?
This evening, I filed a formal White House Petition asking that VP Joe Biden, as President of the Senate require that Mr. Trump provide to state Electors his federal income tax returns and supporting documents for 2006-2015 by December 12, 2016, to enable Electors, before they vote, to
1. assess his qualifications to serve as President without impeachable conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety given his adult children’s continuing association with his companies and Transition and his failure to release tax returns; or
2. switch their vote unless he places his assets in a true blind trust or otherwise properly divests them by December 19, 2016.
If my petition gets 150 signatures, the petition goes public on the White House website. BUT, if I get 100,000 within 30 days, the White House has to respond. Here is my concern, the White House says it will respond within 60 days of reaching 100,000 signatures. By that time the vote will have passed and we will have missed our opportunity to determine the depth of the conflicts of interest. My hope is that if we crush the threshold (at least 1 million signatures) the White House will require transparency prior to the vote. Because it is an official White House petition, after you sign, you have to verify your signature with the e-mail you used.
Sign the Petition.
We deserve to know this information before he is elected President by the electoral college.
Please forward this e-mail and link to all of your social and professional networks and also forward to media.
Thanks for your action,