Early in December, Donald Trump, under fire for refusing to divest himself of his business interests in order to avoid a conflict of interest scandal, promised that he would hold a press conference to outline how he plans to distance himself from his businesses. So, I did not write about it, thinking it would be better to wait and see what his ‘plan’ was before critiquing. Then just three short days before the anticipated event, Trump cancelled the press conference, saying it would take place sometime in January.
Those of us who think about such things foresee great potential for serious conflict of interest, and today it appears those concerns are coming to roost.
“A source tells ThinkProgress that the Kuwaiti embassy, which has regularly held the event at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, abruptly canceled its reservation after members of the Trump Organization pressured the ambassador to hold the event at the hotel owned by the president-elect. The source, who has direct knowledge of the arrangements between the hotels and the embassy, spoke to ThinkProgress on the condition of anonymity because the individual was not authorized to speak publicly. ThinkProgress was also able to review documentary evidence confirming the source’s account.”
Since I cannot confirm the veracity of the above story as yet, I will say no more, but will wait and see, for if true, as I believe it is, it will be only a matter of days before it becomes widely known. If that does not constitute conflict of interest, and outright abuse of power, then I don’t know what does. In Trump’s view, perhaps nothing does, as he said long ago that he is exempt from the law.
An article from Jim Zarroli, NPR business reporter, listed some questions journalists would have liked to ask Trump at the canceled press conference. Since I think we all have a right to some answers, I will post a few of them here:
- Why did your daughter sit in on a meeting with the Japanese prime minister, and did she discuss any business during the meeting?
- Last month you had a phone call with the Argentine president. Is there any truth to the report that you spoke about stalled permits for a construction project you’re building in Buenos Aires? What is the status of the project now?
- Why are you skeptical of the consensus of all 17 U.S. intelligence agencies, that Russia interfered with the 2016 election process? You have repeatedly said that U.S. intelligence “has no idea” who hacked U.S. institutions. You have access to the classified evidence that supports the intelligence assessment. Do you possess evidence to the contrary?
- Your former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, said recently the problem with the media is that they took the things you said too literally. Do you want the American people to take what you say and tweet literally? How can the American people judge whether you are being truthful if your own aides say you shouldn’t necessarily be taken literally?
- President-elect, you have said repeatedly in speeches during your thank-you tour that you will bring the U.S. together — that we’re one country, and we need to be united. But at those same speeches, talk of unity is combined with statements that criticize, even mock those who opposed you. How does that serve the unity you say needs to come about? And can you please list some specific examples of things you will do to help that unity take place?
It has been 145 days since Trump last held a press conference, more than four months. Are we to expect only 2-3 press conferences a year once he takes office? However, he has tweeted 1,476 times. Unlike other ways of getting messages out, press conferences hold public officials more accountable to the American people because they have to answer questions in an uncontrolled environment. It is ironic that, during the campaign earlier this year, Trump criticized Hillary Clinton almost daily for not holding press conferences. Double standard? Pot calling the kettle … ?
On the one hand, it makes no difference whether he holds a press conference or not, because his speech is typically so disorganized that nobody comes away with a clear sense of what he said, and whether by tweet or press conference, the veracity of anything he says is questionable, at best.
On the other hand, it makes a lot of difference. When he tweets, it is a closed discussion. He can say what he will, but there are no journalists to ask him the tough questions such as those listed above, and it is not a venue that is likely to be widely viewed. I do not follow his tweets, and only know one person who does, and that is so he can comment. Perhaps Trump’s followers hang on his every twit, but most of us do not.
Of course, his minions do hold daily teleconferences. Here is an excerpt from a recent one:
“Let’s go ahead and open it up to a couple of questions,” Donald Trump spokesman Jason Miller announces at Monday’s installment.
Will the president-elect be staying at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida through the new year?
“Wouldn’t want to go and forecast next week’s schedule,” Miller replies.
Will Trump keep the Internal Revenue Service commissioner until his term ends?
“No decision yet on that front.”
Will Trump keep the D.C. “Taxation Without Representation” license plates on the presidential limousine?
“Don’t want to speculate on that.”
Will he name businessman Toby Neugebauer ambassador to Mexico?
“I don’t know if I’ll have an answer for you.”
Will Trump make any more public appearances while in Florida?
“Don’t want to speculate on that,” Miller says.
The Q&A is six minutes and 17 seconds old. “And that,” the operator says, “is all the time we have for questions.”
I am quite tired of Trump supporters who condemn those of us who expect some answers from this man-who-would-be-king. We all need to remember one thing: Donald Trump, upon taking office at noon on January 20th, is our employee. He is not our boss, he is no better than us, and since we pay his salary, he works for us, therefore we have a right to demand answers. So no, I do not think I will be shutting up any time soon. I demand answers, I demand to know how he intends to address the concerns of the majority of us, those who did NOT vote for him.