(CNN) – “I don’t care about my business.” President-elect Donald Trump brushing off questions about his business ventures around the world. “In theory, I could be president and run my business and sign checks. I could run my business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly.”
His business encompassing 150 companies, in at least 25 countries around the world, and the projects will continue to pop-up throughout Trump’s presidency. In the works, Trump Tower at Century City in the Philippines; a $150-million tower licensing the Trump name.
Developer Jose Antonio flew to New York following the election for a meeting with Trump and his children. Antonio was just named by the President of the Philippines a special trade envoy to the U.S., further blurring the lines between business and government.
Then there’s the Trump Towers project in Istanbul. In an interview with Breitbart News Daily in 2015, Trump said, “It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers.” Last June, Turkish President Erdogan demanded the Trump name be taken down after Trump called for a Muslim ban in the U.S. However, in July, after then-candidate Trump defended Erdogan’s right to crackdown on dissidents after an attempted coup, all calls to eliminate the Trump name ceased.
Trump admitted on Brietbart Radio on December 1, 2015 the project could pose a problem; “Well, I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul.”
It was just one week after the election that Trump took time to meet with Indian business partners at Trump Tower, seen in a tweet that was later taken down.
The scrutiny over his continued business dealings is mounting. Democrats now demanding the House Committee on oversight and government reform investigate, “…the intermingling of Mr. Trump’s businesses and his responsibilities as president.” Calling his “conflicts of interest around the world….unprecedented.”
Even Republican Congressman Justin Amash tweeting, “You rightly criticized Hillary for Clinton Foundation. If you have contracts w/foreign govts, it’s certainly a big deal, too. #draintheswamp”
Trump isn’t backing down, acknowledging that his rise to the white house makes his name, “…a hotter brand than it was before.”
Ethics lawyers warn if Trump doesn’t go further to separate his presidency from his pet projects, there could be problems. NYU Professor Stephen Gillens said, “I think it jeopardizes the country because the danger is that he’ll make decisions that benefit him financially but are not the best decisions for the country.”
Professor Gillens points out that Trump is right in at least one respect, many of the conflicts of interest laws that apply to members of Congress and cabinet members specifically exempt the President and Vice President. With a Republican Congress, it’s less likely that the little known emoluments clause would be enforced barring public officials from accepting gifts or compensation from foreign governments.