If the news media won’t ask Donald Trump serious questions, his fellow presidential candidates should.
Donald Trump has now won the last three primary contests and, however much we don’t like it, conservatives have to face the fact that he has a good chance of being the Republican nominee. He has done so by running a campaign that has been long on personality and short on content.
Primary voters deserve answers to the questions Trump has been dodging. We must know the truth about the man who seeks to place himself at the head of the Republican Party. We must demand that the news media and his fellow candidates start holding him to account.
1. Will Donald Trump Place His Businesses into a Blind Trust?
Trump speaks a great deal about his business empire and how fabulously successful it is. There’s been considerable debate on that (some people say he’d be richer if he’d just invested his inherited wealth into an S&P index fund) and a lot of talk about his use of the bankruptcy code. Most of the talk focused on the Trump Organization’s past performance, and precious little on its future. We’ve already seen how his campaign spends a great deal of money at Trump properties, funneling that money ultimately right back to him.
But what of the future of the Trump Organization? We’ve had businessmen-candidates before, but they’ve been scrupulous about separating private interests from public duty. Mitt Romney promised to put his private fortune in a blind trust if elected. George W. Bush did the same. Will Trump do likewise?
Our only clue came in the debate of January 14. When asked about a blind trust, Trump replied: “I don’t know if it’s a blind trust if Ivanka, Don and Eric run it,” he said of his children. “If that’s a blind trust, I don’t know.”
He does know, of course, and the answer is: it’s not. In a blind trust, the trustee must have full discretion over the assets, and the trust beneficiary (Donald Trump, in this scenario) must have no knowledge of how the assets are held and no control over them. This requires a truly independent trustee, not the children of the beneficiary.
We’ve seen the opposite of a politician using a blind trust, although not (fortunately) in America. In Italy, the election of billionaire media mogul Silvio Berlusconi led to a situation similar to one we would face under a President Trump. Berlusconi claimed to have separated the two, but the evidence is to the contrary as his businesses gained more than a billion dollars in value during his premiership. Berlusconi became a by-word for corruption in Europe. We must demand that Trump take steps to avoid tarring the American government with that same brush.
2. Will Donald Trump Release His Tax Returns?
Trump has refused to release his tax returns, an informal requirement to which nearly every candidate for decades has adhered. Other Republican candidates have done so—Jeb Bush released 33 years’ worth, for all the good it did him—and even Hillary Clinton has published eight years of the details of her wealth. Not so Trump.
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