Wyden, Merkley Reintroduce Bill to Require the President and Vice President to Fully Divest Their Financial Conflicts of Interests
First introduced in January 2017, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act could have reined in over two years of White House conflicts of interest
Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley have joined 29 Senate colleagues to reintroduce the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, a bill that would require the President and Vice President to disclose and divest any potential financial conflicts of interest. It also would require presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any specific matters involving the president's financial conflicts of interest that come before their agencies.
“The U.S. presidency was not created to be a financial boon to its incumbent, its sole purpose is to serve the American people.” Wyden said. “While past presidents have followed well-established precedent and divested from any financial conflicts of interest, the Trump administration is stretching the limits of the law. It’s long past time Congress close this loophole that could be used to profit off the presidency.”
“President Trump and his administration have violated countless anti-corruption norms honored by previous presidencies, undermining both integrity of governance and the perception of integrity,” Merkley said. “This legislation sends a message loud and clear: Members of the executive branch serve the public, not their own pocket books. Let’s end this corruption now.”
H.R. 1 (For the People Act, landmark legislation to strengthen federal ethics laws that already passed the House) included similar provisions to require the President and Vice President to divest their financial interests.
Currently, presidents and vice presidents are exempt from many federal financial conflicts of interest laws, but for decades presidents have addressed concerns regarding foreign and domestic conflicts of interest by divesting their financial interests and placing them in a true blind trust or the equivalent. To ensure compliance with the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, the bill would turn this longstanding practice into law by:
- Requiring the President, Vice President, their spouses and minor or dependent children to divest all interests that create financial conflicts of interest by placing those assets in a true blind trust, which would be managed by an independent trustee who would oversee the sale of assets and place the proceeds in conflict-free holdings;
- Adopting a sense of the Congress that the President’s violation of financial conflicts of interest laws or the ethics requirements that apply to executive branch employees constitute a high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution; and
- Prohibiting presidential appointees from participating in matters that directly involve the financial interests of the president.
Wyden, the ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, previously probed into possible Emoluments Clause violations by the Trump Organization in March 2018.
Joining Wyden, Merkley and U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in cosponsoring this bill are Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Michael F. Bennet, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., Cory A. Booker, D-N.J., Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md., Tom Carper, D-Del., Robert P. Casey, Jr., D-Pa., Chris Coons, D-Del., Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Kirsten E. Gillibrand, D-N.Y., Kamala Harris, D-Calif., Mazie K. Hirono, D-Hawaii, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., Edward J. Markey, D-Mass., Christopher Murphy, D-Conn., Patty Murray, D-Wash., Gary C. Peters, D-Mich., Jack Reed, D-R.I., Tina Smith, D-Minn., Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., Tom Udall, D-N.M., Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., and Sheldon Whitehouse. D-R.I.
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