Trump’s stall puts a formal announcement not coincidentally after the electoral college meets. Trump’s style has always been, as with his taxes, to postpone and postpone and finally renege on any promises. And speaking of his tax returns, there is no sign that he will ever release them, leaving the very real possibility that we would not know whether he is receiving income from Russian oligarchs, is in debt to the Bank of China or has any other financial arrangement that would violate the Constitution or pose a direct, serious threat of self-dealing.
The good-government group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington released a statement prior to his tweet, which expressed concern that he had delayed a specific explanation, “like he did to avoid releasing his tax returns after promising them.”
Norman Eisen of the Brookings Institution explains via email, “This is the latest in a series of backtracks by the president elect. First watchdogs complained about lobbyists in the transition. He kicked them out. Then about his kids being listed for security clearances. He blamed an intern and revoked.” Eisen continued, “Then there was a furor about his son-in-law being appointed as a White House adviser in violation of nepotism laws. Trump then said maybe he’ll make the young man a Middle East peace envoy instead.” He urged Trump to”follow every president for the past four decades, and divest into a blind trust or the equivalent. ”
Trump seems to be ruling out that option — and Republicans in Congress surely are confronting him. They have essentially signaled they trust Trump to do the right thing, which seems wishful thinking at best and, at worst, is enabling him to snub the Constitution. When Congress reconvenes on Jan. 3, 2017, it would do well to adopt the resolution offered by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and about two dozen Democrats setting out their expectation that Trump will divest himself of his businesses, avoid any violation of the Emoluments Clause and put the proceeds from the sale of his businesses in a truly blind trust that is managed by a reliable third party, not his children. Moreover, until Trump eliminates any foreign sources of money, Republicans should refuse to move forward on his secretary-of-state nominee, Rex W. Tillerson.
As on the probe of Russian hacking during the election, House and Senate Republicans have a choice. They can put the interests of the country and the Constitution ahead of partisan loyalty, or they can do the reverse. If they fail to act, Democrats should do their best to shut down business on other matters. The prerequisite for any policy work is assurance that the president will abide by the Constitution and avoid even the appearance of corruption. If Republicans refuse to confront the issue up front, they will be responsible for the scandals that ensue. And thereafter we need not take seriously their claims to be stalwart defenders of the Constitution.