Ethical and legal aspects of President-elect Trump's financial affairs, plus a look at his proposed lobbying ban

The vast and varied business dealings of President-elect Donald Trump would pose a plethora of conflicts of interest, and while the legality of those conflicts is in his favor, the ethics are open to question.

There are no laws on the books that prevent the President of the United States from being involved with the Trump Organization while in office. The President-elect has said he will turn control over to his children and a team of executives, which in itself presents its own ethical issues with how it could look if the Trump Administration does something that could help one of his businesses.

Furthermore, Trump has borrowed millions from banks all over the world to support his real estate empire, and his ties to banks are even more unclear because his tax returns aren’t public. Within that empire there are hotels, golf courses, and a slew of other properties he owns worldwide as well as involvements in hundreds of companies both domestically and in countries overseas, some of which aren’t necessarily friendly with the U.S. There’s also the matter of the federal civil case regarding fraud claims at Trump University. If and when Mr. Trump takes the witness stand during the trial, there are concerns the federal investigators on the case could be swayed because the focus of the investigation is their boss.

Elsewhere in the transition, top advisers on the President-elect’s transition team said on Wednesday that they are moving towards a ban on lobbying for five years after an official leaves the government. Anyone being considered for a high-profile position in Trump’s Administration will have to formally terminate their status as a registered lobbyist.


Drew Harwell, national business reporter for The Washington Post; he tweets @drewharwell