In his #NeverTrump jeremiad last week, Mitt Romney said the Donald’s economic proposals would throw the economy into recession, while his foreign policy would make the world less safe. The former GOP nominee then sneaked in a couple of swipes at Trump’s least successful branded products.
After his victories in the Mississippi and Michigan primaries Tuesday night, Trump felt no need to address Romney’s policy critiques — but the GOP front-runner did spend a solid ten minutes of his celebratory press conference defending Trump Steaks and Trump Vodka. The mogul went so far as to address the American people from beside a heaping platter of raw beef and bottles of Trump Water and Trump Wine. At one point, he held up the latest issue of Trump magazine and briefly mused on its cover story.
“He said, ‘Trump magazine is out.’ I said, ‘It is? I thought I read one two days ago,’” Trump said of Romney’s remarks. “It’s called the ‘Jewel of Palm Beach,’ and it goes to all my clubs.”
As bizarre as Trump’s extended QVC routine was, it was of a piece with his Super Tuesday victory speech. Normally, when presidential candidates use the word we in a public address, they are referring to their campaigns. But on March 1, Trump repeatedly used the word to refer to his company, as he touted how many people “we employ” in various states.
Trump’s campaign announcement is best remembered for its disparagement of Mexican immigrants. But the billionaire spent as much of that June speech promoting his golf courses as he did demeaning minority groups. In all probability, Trump began his candidacy operating under the same assumptions as everyone else: that he had no serious chance of winning the White House, but a presidential campaign would increase the visibility of his brand.
As the mogul has become a serious contender for the American presidency, the brand-management aspect of his run has only grown more conspicuous and concerning — not only because of the global humiliation Trump’s product-placement-filled State of the Unions would invite, but also because of the serious conflicts of interest his enterprises would produce.
In order to avoid similar conflicts, Mitt Romney placed his complex private-equity investments into a blind trust in 2012. But no quick fix is possible in Trump’s case, short of selling off all of his branded holdings. His official plan — turning over control of the company to his immediate family members — might save him some time but would do effectively nothing to shield him from conflicts of interest while in the Oval Office.
American law bars regular Executive-branch employees from participating “personally and substantially” in a government matter that could affect their own financial interests. But, incredibly, the president is exempted from that rule. According to CNBC, Trump would be within his legal rights to remain his company’s chief executive, even while serving as America’s commander-in-chief.
The Executive branch’s control of foreign policy, in combination with Trump’s extensive overseas holdings, would create an unfathomable number of potential conflicts. In many of these cases, the only thing that would prevent President Trump from prioritizing the interests of his company over those of the American people would be his own sense of integrity.
If you believe in the Donald’s ethical judgment, I’ve got some Trump Steaks to sell you.