Donald Trump clearly raised a few eyebrows with his comments to The Atlantic about various government posts for which he's considered Ivanka Trump, but the president had some related thoughts on two of his other adult children.
In our conversation, the president wanted to be clear: He was very proud of all his children.... "Don is, uh, he's enjoying politics; actually, it's very good. And Eric is running the business along with Don, and also very much into politics. I mean, the children -- the children have been very, very good."
On the surface, the president's comments hardly seem surprising. Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. are prominent public figures, especially in the political sphere, where they frequently make media appearances and speeches as part of the family's political agenda. With this in mind, it's only natural that their father would acknowledge the degree to which they're "very much into politics."
But just below the surface, there's a meaningful ethical dilemma. Trump's adult sons are running his business, making new investments, serving as presidential surrogates, and playing partisan politics -- all at the same time.
Weren't we told the First Family would avoid doing this?
Aaron Rupar took a helpful stroll down memory lane today:
Days before his father was inaugurated as president of the United States in 2017, Eric Trump told ABC he would stay out of politics while running the family business."Listen, I think it's important to keep separation of church and state," he said.Back in January 2017, this was the talking point the whole Trump family was using. Even though Eric's father refused to do what other presidents have done and divest from his business interests, he made statements about the importance of avoiding conflicts of interest by keeping his children out of politics, and vice versa."What I'm going to be doing is my two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company," Trump said during a January 2017 news conference. "They are not going to discuss it with me."
It wasn't long after inauguration that the Trumps abandoned this commitment. Indeed, as regular readers may recall, Eric Trump conceded in March 2017 that he intended to go over quarterly reports from the Trump Organization with the president, exploring "profitability reports and stuff like that."
Why does it matter when the lines between Trump's politics and Trump's business blur? Because the ethical lines exist for a reason: anyone dealing with the Trump Organization, here or abroad, is not supposed to see it as an extension of the White House or the American president's political operation.
When foreign officials sit down to discuss a proposed hotel with Don Trump Jr., they shouldn't have to wonder if they're dealing with a business executive, a presidential family member, a Republican operative, or some combination therein.
As the lines disappear, the conflicts become more painfully obvious -- and yet, the Trumps are no longer making much of an effort to maintain pretenses of propriety.