When President-elect Donald Trump announced that he wouldn’t be discussing his business plans until January, several members of the media became upset.
Remarkable. The amount of somersaults Trump does here on why his keeping a stake in his business isn't a conflict of interest: pic.twitter.com/AjZSKyham1
— Sopan Deb (@SopanDeb) December 11, 2016
As Trump delays announcement of his plan to remove himself from control of his business operations, he attempts to turn story with updates https://t.co/jayIPfIIM9
— Eric Lipton (@EricLiptonNYT) December 13, 2016
— Bloomberg Politics (@bpolitics) December 14, 2016
Trump announced his run a year and a half ago, and he *still* has no plan for how to address his business conflicts. https://t.co/K8x1fjdatR
— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) December 12, 2016
Just take a look at some of their headlines about his conflict of interests: “What Can Be Done About Trump’s Conflicts of Interest? That’s Up to Congress.” from Mother Jones, “Trump’s Businesses Represent an Impossible Conflict of Interest” from The New Yorker, “Donald Trump defies promise to resolve conflicts of interest before electors vote” from Mic, and “How Donald Trump’s Business Ties Are Already Jeopardizing U.S. Interests” from Newsweek.
The media seems to be very fascinated with this story, but do his supporters even care? Probably not.
“It was an issue discussed during the campaign,” said New Hampshire Republican strategist Greg Moore in an interview with NH Journal. “It’s not new information and the fact that it’s being reported on now, it’s not something that’s going to change the dynamics of how people view him.”
Trump’s businesses extend across the globe and traditionally, presidents have liquidated their personal holdings and put them in a blind trust to avoid any accusation that decisions made in the Oval Office would personally benefit them. On the campaign trail, Trump said he would cut ties with his business. He previously scheduled an announcement for Thursday about his businesses, but said he would do it another time.
He posted on Twitter that he would be leaving his businesses before January 20, even though he is not required by law to do so, and his sons, Don and Eric, would manage them. No new business deals will be done while he is in office.
Even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my busineses before January 20th so that I can focus full time on the……
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
Presidency. Two of my children, Don and Eric, plus executives, will manage them. No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
The Office of Government Ethics advised on Tuesday that failing to set up a blind trust would be a breach of the spirit of the law.
“Given the unique circumstances of the Presidency, OGE’s view is that a President should comply with this law by divesting conflicting assets, establishing a qualified blind trust, or both,” stated a letter from the OGE. “However, although every President in modern times has adopted OGE’s recommended approach, OGE has no power to require adherence to this tradition.”
So while Trump isn’t technically breaking any laws, the media has been extensively covering the story, hypothesizing about what could happen if Trump doesn’t stick with tradition.
Prior to the election it was well known that I have interests in properties all over the world.Only the crooked media makes this a big deal!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 22, 2016
Moore said the media is “just enhancing the disconnect.”
Amused by the ongoing notion among media that Trump voters care about conflict of interest story. Just enhancing the disconnect. #nhpolitics
— Greg Moore (@GregMooreNH) December 13, 2016
“I think they still have not adapted to the fact that things are going to be done differently,” he said. “They assume that he’s going to fall into the paradigm of what people have done in the past. He’s been making it clear on a daily basis that he will not operate in the same manner. The national media needs to understand that they also need to adapt.”
There could be some truth to that. This has been the first non politician in modern history to win the White House, leaving the Washington press corps in disbelief, figuring out how this possibly could have happened.
The pundits and reporters covering Trump never predicted that he could win it all, focusing on stories like his tax returns during the campaign. He never released his tax returns, yet enough people voted for him to win the Electoral College. And he still hasn’t released them.
“Trump supporters are used to the media covering him harshly and this just reinforces a lot of their view of him not getting fair coverage,” Moore said.
Meredith McGehee, a strategic advisor with the Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit group that focuses on fair campaigns and elections, told The Fiscal Times that voters picked Trump because he was an outsider.
“Those people who voted for Mr. Trump…they knew he was a businessman. They knew he had all these holdings. This is part of the package. If you talk to Trump voters…they wanted him to run the country more like a businessman.”
According to a recent POLITICO/Morning Consult poll, 52 percent of voters say Trump’s “business interests and positions” would affect his decision-making as president “a lot” and 29 percent say they will have “some” effect on his decision.
However, the poll also found that voters are split on whether his business ties would be beneficial to his presidency. About 39 percent say Trump’s business interests are a “good thing” and 44 percent say it’s a “bad thing.”
Of course, journalists should demand transparency and seek the truth, regardless of who wins the presidency. Trump should be truthful and forthcoming about his business dealings in order to maintain trust with voters and not waste time with congressional investigations for the next four years. If there are any conflicts of interest, he should be open about it and avoid them.
But at some point, the media needs to think about the country that they’re reporting on and how Trump ended up winning. It still seems like they don’t understand who the Trump voter is, and are only covering stories to gratify traditional politicians and each other.