Congressman Jerrold Nadler—perhaps the most liberal member of the House—called upon members of the Senate to block all of President-elect Donald Trump‘s Cabinet appointments unless the real estate mogul submits to full divestment and disclosure as to his personal assets and real estate fiefdom.
The Democratic legislator, who represents parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn, called it “disappointing, but no surprise” that Trump postponed a promised press conference where he was supposed to describe exactly how he will disengage from his business interests before assuming the Oval Office in January. After scrapping an announcement scheduled for tomorrow, the incoming commander-in-chief claimed on Twitter yesterday that he would hold a similar event “soon,” and indicated he would put his sons Donald Jr. and Eric in charge of his various companies instead of placing the enterprises in the hands of a truly independent fiduciary.
Nadler asserted this was part of a pattern of opacity and evasion by the president-elect, who he noted broke with decades of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns during the campaign.
“Donald Trump has been the least transparent presidential candidate in history, and his refusal to release his tax returns or liquidate his assets and place them in a blind trust—the only acceptable plan to address conflict-of-interest concerns—is appalling,” Nadler wrote in the statement, noting that Trump spent the weeks after his election engaging with international business partners and hosting diplomats at his new luxury hotel in D.C. “Each day, new entanglements between Mr. Trump’s business interests and American foreign policy are revealed.”
The congressman echoed concerns that Trump might violate the Constitution’s “emoluments clause”—which forbids elected officials from receiving a financial benefit from another country’s government—by continuing to enlarge his personal fortune through business dealings with foreign leaders and on foreign shores. He also alluded to reports that the Central Intelligence Agency determined that the reams of hacked emails that sandbagged Hillary Clinton’s campaign were part of a plot by Russian President Vladimir Putin to install Trump in the White House.
“Intelligence agencies have confirmed Russian interference aimed at helping Donald Trump win the presidency, a confirmation which strikes at the core of American democracy, eroding the nation’s trust in its elected leaders,” said Nadler. “Trump should release his tax returns and completely eliminate his conflicts of interest, which violate the Constitution and threaten our democratic institutions. We should not confirm any of the President-elect’s nominees until these issues are resolved.”
Numerous reports have outlined the president-elect’s extensive financial dealings with Kremlin-linked oligarchs and institutions, and Trump has never hidden his effusive admiration for Putin’s autocratic regime. But it is impossible to know the true depth and extent of those connections because the former TV host has balked at divulging his tax returns, and his various firms are privately held.
Yesterday, the president-elect nominated Exxon-Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson, on whom the Eurasian strongman bestowed the “Russian Order of Friendship” medal in 2013, to head the State Department—the agency that sets the nation’s foreign policy.
The Queens-born businessman’s second campaign manager, Paul Manafort, previously worked for deposed Putin puppet Viktor Yanukovych of Ukraine. Manafort abdicated his job with Trump following revelations that he received illegal payments to lobby the U.S. on behalf of the Kievan kleptocrat’s government.
The Republican nominee‘s only contribution to the GOP platform this year was a demand that the party weaken language committing the United States to the defense the democratic post-Yanukovych government in the face of violent Russian expansionism.
Trump has also indicated he would not honor the terms of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which require all member countries to treat an invasion of an ally as an incursion onto their own territory. Further, he has openly pledged to pull American resources from the escalating civil war in Syria, where Russia has mounted a bloody campaign to prop up the faltering government of Bashar al-Assad.
Nadler, a Clinton backer, has pushed his party to take an adamant stance against Trump’s agenda. But he belongs to tthe all but powerless House Democratic Minority—and confirming Cabinet appointees is the job of the Senate.
Sen. Charles Schumer, as incoming Minority Leader, is set to have the greatest sway of any Democrat in Republican-dominated D.C. next year. Schumer’s conference is 48 seats strong, and it takes 60 votes to close discussion on most matters under current filibuster rules.
But the senator’s office declined to comment on Nadler’s idea of obstructing Trump’s nominees unless he meets demands for transparency. A Schumer spokesman would only say the lawmaker had qualms about the president-elect’s selection of Dr. Ben Carson for Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Georgia Congressman Tom Price for Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt for the head of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Read the full text of Nadler’s statement below:
“It is disappointing, but no surprise, that President-elect Trump has delayed, yet again, detailing how he will address the very real and disturbing legal concerns over the massive web of conflicts posed by his business interests. His postponement of this week’s planned press conference indicates that he is not ready or willing to adequately answer the American people’s questions, which is unacceptable.
“This comes as U.S. intelligence agencies have confirmed Russian interference aimed at helping Donald Trump win the presidency, a confirmation which strikes at the core of American democracy, eroding the nation’s trust in its elected leaders. Each day, new entanglements between Mr. Trump’s business interests and American foreign policy are revealed, some of which appear to violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause as well as various federal laws.
“Donald Trump has been the least transparent presidential candidate in history, and his refusal to release his tax returns or liquidate his assets and place them in a blind trust—the only acceptable plan to address conflict-of-interest concerns—is appalling. His repeated pledges to address these conflicts, followed by no answers or action whatsoever, reveal his promises to be nothing but a sham.
“Congress must demand answers to questions about Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest if we are to have any faith that America’s democracy and people are safe and their interests secure. We must have an investigation. Mr. Trump should release his tax returns and completely eliminate his conflicts of interest, which violate the Constitution and threaten our democratic institutions. We should not confirm any of the President-elect’s nominees until these issues are resolved.”
Disclosure: Donald Trump is the father-in-law of Jared Kushner, the publisher of Observer Media.