It was November 21st that I filed a FOIA request asking for the tax returns of Donald Trump. The reason I thought the government might actually produce the documents, even though a tax return is normally considered to be private and confidential, was there was an “over-riding public interest” in getting this information. The public has a right to know if a decision Trump makes as president might be affected by a personal financial investment he has.
Today, in a tweet, Trump has announced that he would be leaving his business “in total” to focus on running the country. He explained that he would outline the plan in a Dec. 15 news conference with his family. The choice of the 15th is coincidental as the federal government is required by law to respond to the FOIA request within 20 working days. Twenty working days would run on the very next day, December 16th. The fact that Trump might give up control of his investments is not a sufficient divestment of his interest in the investment. For example, if Donald Trump owned the Dallas Cowboys, and if he gave up control over decisions about which players to recruit, he would still have a vested interest in the team if he retained ownership. If Vladimir Putin gave $50 million dollars to a middle linebacker, defensive end, left tackle, cornerback, and wide receiver, to play for the Cowboys, it seems rather obvious that Trump would make a substantial amount of money from that deal. Moreover, he would be indebted to Putin for increasing the value of his investment.
Trump doesn’t seem to understand that maintaining his ownership of certain assets creates the conflict of interest. Giving up control over the investments would not obviate the conflict.