Is Trump Denying Coronavirus Concerns In Order To Protect His Own Business Interests?

There have been many instances, throughout the presidential tenure of Donald Trump so far, where his business interests have created the appearance of a conflict of interest when it comes to his presidential actions.

The military has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to stay at one of his resorts in Scotland, for instance, doing so when other, less expensive and possibly more geographically expedient options were available to them.

The White House/Flickr

The Secret Service has similarly spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at many of Trump’s resorts and golf outings, and it was recently revealed that, while the Trump Organization had alleged in the past it was giving a discount for them doing so, no such discount existed at all, and agents were charged full price to stay there.

Trump even tried to get the American-hosted G7 Summit, set for this year, to be at one of his own resorts, a move that, in addition to netting him a ton of cash when world leaders would stay there, would also be free advertising for his properties around the globe (the plan was eventually nixed).

These are just a few out of a handful of examples where Trump’s business interests and his work as president have crossed each other’s paths — an issue that ethics groups have said would be a problem from the start of his presidency, when he refused to put his company in a real blind trust, handing it over to his sons to manage instead.

That setup was promised to create a separation between Trump and the Trump organization. However, GOP sources have detailed how Trump frequently talks to his sons about his businesses, making that separation less of a wall and more of a door where the deadbolt is never locked.

As the country tries to figure out what it’s going to do regarding the spread of coronavirus, some have suggested that Trump’s recent comments demonstrate he’s still more concerned about the disease’s impact on his properties than he is on protecting the American people.

Trump described, for instance, how limited travel for others has caused a lot of people to stay in the U.S. “And they’re going to be doing their business here,” Trump said last Friday. “They’re going to be traveling here. And they’ll be going to resorts here.”

Kathleen Clark, an ethics lawyer and a frequent Trump critic, told the Associated Press this week that comments like these are demonstrative of Trump’s conflicts of interest rearing its ugly head during a national crisis.

“If there is any public health shutdown of restaurants, conventions, and meetings, that will impact his property and his finances,” Clark said. “I think a reasonable person can conclude that he is motivated by personal interests.”

Noah Bookbinder, executive director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), made similar comments.

“We have to ask with almost every major policy decision whether he’s acting in the country’s interest or his own interest,” he said. “In a time of crisis like this, being able to trust our institutions, that our government is making the right decision for our health, economy, and security is incredibly important.”

An important aspect regarding the rules and regulations of conflicts of interest is that, if it even appears that conflicts exist, it’s bad enough. Within the Trump administration, however, that standard has been trampled upon time and time again.

It appears that standard will not be respected here, too, when it comes to protecting Trump’s business interests. His comments about coronavirus being an economic “good” already show some disturbing perspectives — some that may be about taking care of his bottom line rather than the health of the American people.

Featured image credit: The White House/Flickr

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