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As of 2017, conflict of interest rules apparently don’t apply legally to the Office of the President of the United States. Though, with that being said, it does not outrightly remove the issue from the slate entirely either. The concept exists not solely for the purpose of keeping an officeholder from profiting from his or her office: it exists to protect the rest of us from having that officeholder’s decisions influenced by his or her business interests, rather than by (in this case) the national interest. Someone with the business interests Trump has — unless he divests (which he seems unwilling to do: he’s been extremely opaque about his personal finances from the start) — is, essentially, operating on the honor system, and anyone who relies on that might well consider buying some swampland (or a casino) from Trump. (The idea that if someone is very rich, he is therefore incorruptible, relies on the notion that he is no longer interested in making money. Trump’s resistance to divestiture suggests that for him, this is not the case. Rather tellingly, the only entity Trump has pledged to dissolve to date is his nonprofit foundation.)
That said, it goes beyond the matter of whether or not an officeholder actually profits from his or her decisions made in an office holding capacity: the crux of the concept is whether he or she has the opportunity to profit from them. For a politician, not addressing conflicts of interest creates not only an open door for varieties of corruption: it creates vulnerabilities for the politician as well. Regardless of whether or not he or she actually makes decisions in his or her own financial interest, such a situation creates conditions in which said politician can be “set up” by his or her political enemies (and not only domestic ones — especially for someone with international business operations) in such a way that the appearance of impropriety can be created, and the mere appearance of such a thing creates leverage.
What is more...
Is that in the recent past, our Commanders-in-Chief have honored a tradition of placing their assets in blind trusts or taking other appropriate measures to distance themselves from the need to manage their assets and business ventures — even if these efforts were not completely effective.
The office is very demanding on the time, attention and health of conscientious individuals. It is not appropriate or fair that the office should receive less than a President’s full attention nor is it fair that a President should have to worry about his business either.
This, along with the disclosure of tax records has become an unwritten rule, a tradition honored by all recent US Presidents. While not required by law, the honoring of this tradition has meant that no law mandating this has been needed. Now, some legislators are proposing laws to address this.
By abrogating this tradition, Trump has signaled his contempt for the electorate for even the mere appearance of propriety and integrity. This, however, is of no surprise, but it is still a disappointment and another way our politics and society have been coarsened by this man.
There is, though, some truth to his claim that his supporters knew his “qualities” when they voted for him and do not care. Previously, our Presidents have aspired to be better than average, to set an example by their behavior and standards. Trump has explicitly departed from aspirations to be an exemplar of integrity, dignity and grace.
This situation was entirely predictable to anyone informed and attentive.
The ancient storyteller Aesop taught us about the Snake and the Farmer sometime between 620 and 564 BC: The Farmer knew it (the Snake) was a viper when he clutched him to his breast. Why, then, would he be surprised and disappointed that the viper bit him?
The GOP controls both Congressional houses and the power to investigate a sitting President lies in Congress. And, unfortunately, for any non-supporting Trump fans out there, Congress tends to use that power only in aggressively underhanded and partisan political ways. Some may believe that Congress wields these powers honestly and fairly to investigate all serious issues that come to their attention, but there is no recent evidence for that assertion.
As long as Congressional Republicans continue to consider President Trump “on their team,” they will avoid hearings and talk around any issues directly related to the President. So yeah, sure, they will "kick the tires" on some other ridiculously, flagrant violations from other Executive Branch-level "power-players" (i.e. Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Don Jr., etc.), followed by a "dog and pony" show of some Trumped-up defender/worshipper that testifies before Congress...with CNN (who falls for this administration's bait and switch con almost every single time) ready to pounce on what is maybe this generation's "Watergate."
Either way, there is no reason under the sun to believe this Republican-dominated Congress will actually provide serious oversight of President #45...and they (Congress) know it.
But you know what's the worst part?
It's that Trump (or someone close to him) knows it, too.