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Democrats introduce Conflicts of Interest Act, but they are unlikely to get a vote

Senate Armed Services Committee members Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) left, Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) talk during a hearing Jan. 5. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

With little hope of winning a vote on its passage, Democrats in the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would require the president to put his investments in a blind trust and cooperate in annual reports on his financial interests. The Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, introduced by a group of Democrats led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), would set boundaries on practices that, up to now, had more to do with norms than the letter of the law.

“The American people deserve to know that the President of the United States is working to do what’s best for the country — not using his office to do what’s best for himself and his businesses,” Warren said in a statement. “The only way for President-elect Trump to truly eliminate conflicts-of-interest is to divest his financial interests by placing them in a blind trust. This has been the standard for previous presidents, and our bill makes clear the continuing expectation that President-elect Trump do the same.”

The legislation, which builds on several months of Democratic criticism and brainstorming, would direct the Office of Government Ethics to submit an annual report on the finances of “the President, the Vice President, the spouse of the President or Vice President, and any minor child of the President or Vice President.” That would bring the presidency in line with what members of Congress are expected to submit. (Their spouses and children are not required to disclose.)

But Democrats are realistic about their slim chances of passing such a bill, or even getting a vote for it in a Republican Congress. It’s one of several methods they’ve adopted for drawing attention to Trump’s financial entanglements. In a half-dozen blue states, Democrats have introduced legislation that would not allow candidates to appear on the ballot unless they revealed financial information. In a letter today to the leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) asked senators to push Attorney General-designate Jeff Sessions, Republican senator of Alabama, on policing Trump’s possible conflicts.

“From the moment he takes the Oath of Office, President-elect Trump will likely be in violation of numerous federal conflict-of-interest laws, as well as of the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution,” Nadler wrote. “That is why it is vital that any nominee for Attorney General, commit to an independent investigation of Mr. Trump’s conflicts, as well as the enforcement of whatever laws are determined to be violated.”

Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017