It was so uplifting. Because we’ve each lived overseas for most of our adult lives, in non-democratic countries without freedom of speech or freedom of assembly, neither my wife nor I have had the opportunity to join many protests. At Washington Dulles Airport we were honored to join throngs of people not just protesting, but also a large number of volunteers with signs and name tags saying “Hello, I’m a lawyer. Let me know if I can help you.” Then we boarded our flight and left for LAX, to meet the crowds surrounding the international arrivals area there. As we marched together through the airports, we both felt a renewed sense of faith in humanity — restoring our hope that when push comes to shove, people will do the right thing. Our favorite chants from the evening were: “Show Me What Democracy Looks Like. THIS is What Democracy Looks Like” ; “No Hate, No Fear, Refugees are Welcome Here” ; “The World is Watching” ; “No Ban. No Wall. Sanctuary For All” and singing, “This Land is My Land, This Land is Your Land.” We were moved to participate, we were moved to tears, and we felt hope. American exceptionalism isn’t dead. It’s in the hands of our people. Let’s hit the streets early and often.
During the President-elect’s term in office, The Trump Organization should donate its profits to the US Government.
It’s simply about alignment of interests. For months, there has been talk of blind trusts, divestitures, and executive privilege. It seems clear that because of the sheer size and 2015 total revenue of The Trump Organization, a blind trust would be nearly impossible to implement. Perhaps more importantly, the Trump name is so intertwined with the strategy of the company that it is virtually impossible for management or governance of the organization to be truly detached from association with the President-elect. Any reasonably-timed divestiture would be extremely difficult given the illiquidity of the Trump Organization assets. And maintaining business ownership in over two dozen countries while stepping into the Oval Office does not satisfy the terms laid out in the Emoluments Clause of the United States Constitution nor should it satisfy the American public. The Office of Government Ethics has recently commented on this familial transfer of management authority to the President-elect’s sons, and has opined that this does not eliminate conflicts of interest under 18 U.S.C. § 208.
So it dawned on me that there is one very simple solution. During the President-elect’s term(s) in office, The Trump Organization could pass all of its profits (including ongoing profits from deals made while in office) to the United States Government. Specifically, to the US Department of Veterans Affairs, which administers a variety of benefits and services that provide financial and other forms of assistance to Servicemembers, Veterans, their dependents and survivors. This strategic transfer of funds would create a shared interest. It would serve the President-elect’s political interests as expressed in his plan for VA reform, help millions of Americans who fight for our country overseas, and ultimately benefit taxpayers.
While The Trump Organization is private and is therefore not subject to public scrutiny, the President-elect could also decide to have the company adhere to more rigorous public company disclosure and reporting requirements. This would include the disclosure of financial statements and annual 10-K reports discussing the state of the company, allowing regulators to view quarterly reports and audits as if The Trump Organization were a publicly traded company. Doing so could satisfy concerns about corporate governance, partnerships, accounting methods, and the veracity of profits which are being distributed to the government as part of the above plan.
With this, in one stroke of a pen, a major portion of Trump’s conflicts of interest could be solved. Aligning interests by channeling his company’s profits to an important government entity should at least assuage the public’s (and The Office of Government Ethics’) worry that his companies may profit or benefit from policy decisions while in office.
While still imperfect, I feel this idea has merit. Of course, any efforts to address such conflicts of interest require a willingness by the President-elect to adhere to a strong code of ethics, given that laws themselves cannot force absolute compliance. I would be most interested to hear what others have to say — especially the President-elect.
Hannah Levien contributed to this article.
Growing up, as an end-of-year tradition around our family dinner table, each family member would guess who would be named TIME’s Person of the Year along with reasons for our picks. (Back then, the issue was still called “Man of the Year,” which didn’t change until 1999). The first one I can remember clearly was back in 1979. I was eight years old, and my pick was Obi-Wan Kenobi, who somehow lost out to the Ayatollah Khomeini though there was a striking physical resemblance.
My father was a senior executive at TIME for 40 years and eventually served as chairman & CEO of its parent company, Time Inc. So, we were always privy to the shortlist for Person of The Year, but I don’t think even Dad knew the final pick until the magazine went to the printing press. Back then, the imaginary line between the editorial and business sides of the publication was so strong that the divide was called “Church” (for editorial) and “State” (for business) — a concept all but forgotten in today’s media business model.
Today, Donald Trump was named TIME’s Person of the Year for 2016. I am not a Trump supporter, but in my opinion, he was the obvious, only choice. And that’s the point. TIME’s definition is “the person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year, for better or for worse.”
This morning, Donald Trump called the selection a “tremendous honor.” And of course he did. But he shouldn’t have. TIME’s “Man of the Year” in 1938 was Adolf Hitler. 1939 and 1942 saw Joseph Stalin given the same “honor.” And then there was the choice of the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979, beating out my pick of Obi-Wan.
Who else would have been reasonable picks for this tumultuous year? Putin would be logical (he already had the “honor” in 2007). Mark Zuckerberg perhaps, given Facebook’s massive role in shaping public opinion globally. Or how about “Brexit,” as a representation of the populist wave now moving across the globe? There have been a handful of “ideas,” rather than people, selected as cover stories for TIME’s special issue — such as “The Computer” in 1982. I simply cannot see a choice as obvious as Donald Trump.
Whether or not Trump’s election to the presidency affects our lives for good or for ill remains a question — and as Nancy Gibbs writes in TIME, “the challenge for Donald Trump is how profoundly the country disagrees about the answer.”
A stunning outcome. We moved to the US just as this election cycle was beginning, and got involved with pent-up enthusiasm after years of living in countries without their own democratic process. I’m extremely sad that our candidate didn’t win, and I’m sure there will be much uncertainty for quite some time. The voters have spoken. My takeaway on this exhausted evening is that our nation is divided far more than I had imagined — more than almost anyone imagined. Yet this election has inspired me to do more, to be more active in our communities, to be better. A divide this great is simply not tolerable. A deep distrust of our institutions, our law enforcement, our journalists, and our fellow citizens, is just unacceptable. I certainly don’t know how to fix these problems and the many others we face. But I’m now determined to be even more involved, to learn more, and to help wherever possible. I hope others feel the same inspiration. To everyone who campaigned, who worked so hard, who inspired others to give their time and energy, thank you.