Among the many problems posed by a Donald Trump presidency is the inseparability of his business and public dealings. Normally, elected presidents place their wealth in a “blind trust,” which invests their holdings in assets of which they are not aware, to prevent them from making decisions that might benefit their own portfolio. It would be extremely difficult for Trump to handle such conflicts of interest, since his business is the licensing of his name to hotels, golf courses, fraudulent universities, and so on. The conflict of interest problem is exacerbated by the fact that Trump either does not understand the concept of a conflict of interest or does not care.
When asked during the primary if he would put his assets in a blind trust, Trump replied that he would, and then defined the term to mean that his children would run it:
If I become president, I couldn’t care less about my company. It’s peanuts. I want to use that same — up here, whatever it may be — to make America rich again, and to make America great again. I have Ivanka and Eric and Don sitting there. Run the company, kids. Have a good time. I’m going to do it for America. … I would put it in a blind trust. Well, I don’t know if it’s a blind trust if Ivanka, Don, and Eric run it. But — is that a blind trust? I don’t know. But I would probably have my children run it with my executives. And I wouldn’t ever be involved, because I wouldn’t care about anything but our country.
That arrangement is the opposite of a blind trust, because President Trump would have complete awareness of what he owns, as well as the ability to intervene in the management of his firm any time he chooses. Asked on Fox & Friends how he would handle his firm, Trump uttered a slightly different formulation of the same policy. He would “sever connections” by having his children run the firm:
“Well I will sever connections and I’ll have my children and my executives run the company,” Trump told “Fox & Friends” in the first segment of a two-part telephone interview. “And I won’t discuss it with them. It’s just so unimportant compared to what we’re doing about making America great again. I just wouldn’t care. I guess you can say there’s a conflict because as the company — country — gets stronger, that’s good for all companies, right? But I wouldn’t care. It’s so unimportant compared to what I’m doing right now.”
The sort of enmeshment between a country’s leadership and business class, where wealthy rulers can enrich themselves through their public behavior, is a hallmark of the post-Soviet realm of which Trump is famously envious. Trump’s response to the conflict of interest is to assure his listeners that it wouldn’t matter because he loves his country so, so much. (As does Vladimir Putin.)
Amazingly, Trump has managed to blur the distinction between a blind trust and the opposite of a blind trust so thoroughly that the media is now repeating his own terms. “The Republican nominee has previously indicated,” reports Politico, “that he would place the businesses in a blind trust run by his children and executives.” Again, a “blind trust run by his children and executives” is not a thing.