Elizabeth Warren and Democrats introduce bill to push Trump to divest businesses

What to watch for during Cabinet confirmation hearings
What to watch for during Cabinet confirmation hearings

Democrats on Monday introduced a bill in both chambers of Congress that effectively aims to push Donald Trump to divest from his wide business holdings, which leave the potential for Trump or his family to benefit financially from his presidency.

The legislation is co-sponsored by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and 23 others in the Senate, while six Democrats co-sponsored it in the House. It may not gain much traction, as Republicans control both legislative chambers and Trump himself will soon sit in the White House.

The bill comes ahead of a news conference scheduled for Wednesday in which Trump is expected to give more details about his plans for his holdings. Trump has previously said that his two eldest sons will run the Trump Organization with other executives, but the Office of Government Ethics and independent experts have urged him to divest his assets and give them to an independent trustee, in line with presidential precedent.

Trump has rightfully noted that the president is exempt from criminal conflict of interest laws, though experts have argued that he could still violate a constitutional clause that bars federal officials from doing business with or taking gifts from foreign governments without congressional approval. The bill introduced Monday aims to make that legal landscape more clear.

The legislation looks to require "the president, vice president, their spouses and minor or dependent children to divest all interests that create financial conflicts of interest placing those assets in a true blind trust," according to a fact sheet from Warren's office. It "will be managed by an independent trustee who will oversee the sale of assets and place the proceeds in conflict-free holdings."

It also includes a symbolic statement that the president skirting ethics rules constitutes "a high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution."

"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 bill includes a proposal from Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., that would require the sitting president and presidential nominees of major parties to release tax returns for the three most recent tax years. Trump received heavy criticism for breaking with recent presidential precedent and not releasing any of his tax returns, therefore providing limited information on his financial holdings.

Trump's transition team did not immediately respond to a request to comment on the bill.

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