Donald Trump, Wilbur Ross, President Trump discussed on Trump, Inc.
Interests, not the public interest. This past summer, our friends at New York magazine came to us and they asked if I wanted to help create a list of people sort of a, who's who of individuals who profited in some way from trump being in the White House? It's a stunning list and you can find it in the current issue of New York magazine. Any one of the entries from the list might have derailed a previous administration. As we were putting together the list something really came into focus for us. The story of corruption in the trump administration is interest about individual people or their actions. It's about how trump's way of doing business has pervaded our entire democracy. That's the story we're telling today. It's like a four year experiment in what happens when you don't refrigerate your leftovers in these conditions, a lot of mold can bloom. So today on the show, a TRIPTYCH, the cabinet secretary, who is business partners with China while negotiating a trade deal with the Chinese. The lawyer who's done more than any single person to keep the president's business records the key to understanding his conflicts out of. The third story is about the president himself and the way he's wielded his constitutional perogatives to pardon and commute criminal sentences. It's his most monarchic power to make problems disappear Intel allies, I can protect you. Trump reporter may Kramer starts us off. A. Act One tone at the top. There is a moment right before trump became president that we add trump bank talk about all the time to be here today at president-elect trump's request. It was when Sherry Dillon one of trump's lawyers walked out in front of a group of journalists and trump supporters to announce that president elect trump had a plan to separate himself from his business. He directed me and my colleagues at the law firm, Morgan Lewis and bacchus to design a structure for his business empire that would completely isolate him from the. Management of the company trump was not going to sell his assets or put them in a blind trust like past presidents Dylan. made it clear. He didn't have to his voluntarily taking this on the conflicts of interest laws simply do not apply to the president or the vice president, and they are not required to separate themselves from their financial assets. Instead, she said trump would hand over management of the business to his eldest sons, which meant trump would still have a financial stake and what happened to his company. Dave vesting. Sherry Dillon said would be unfair to trump president-elect trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built. This plan offers a suitable alternative to address the concerns of the American people. This plan is one that allows the president to funnel taxpayer money directly into his business whenever he visits his properties. Over the last four years, we have seen so many consequences flow from this moment when trump said, he would not disentangle himself from his financial interests. Inside Trump Inc, we sometimes refer to it as the original sin of the trump presidency. Is, going, to get my, you want me to hold up the recorder now. Yeah. That'd be great. Okay we're good. This is Dan Alexander. He's a reporter at Forbes I called him up because I have been thinking about one consequence of trump's decision not to divest, and that is the message it sends to the people who work in his administration. Dan has been reporting on one cabinet official in particular who has a lot of power and a lot of complicated financial interests who failed to separate those interests from his work for the government. Can you start by telling me who was Wilbur Ross before he joined the trump administration or what was his reputation? So Wilbur Ross the. Part of the account is known as a private equity billionaire, the population who wasn't afraid to go into complicated situations and to kind of rough and tumble industry's demands. Coal steal stuff that Scott dirt under the fingernails the millennials are not spending at the same rate says, one of his specialties was negotiating complex bankruptcies. This brought him into contact with trump in the early nineties when investors wanted to take over trump's struggling Atlantic city casinos, Ross helped convince them to keep trump involved and when trump then says that he's going to run for president. He starts making some declarations about why he believes that trump's trade policy is really really smart. He also hosts fundraisers for trump and sort of a big backer, and then after trump wins, you know he receives one of the first appointments to be Secretary of Commerce. The commerce secretary oversees everything from trade to the national weather, service to the census. It is not a flashy position. It is a powerful one. Like trump Ross had all of these business entanglements when he stepped into the role, what's supposed to happen in that process? When someone goes from working in private industry to being a cabinet official? What are the rules for separating yourself from Your Business Yeah? So the first thing you have to tell everyone what you own and that sort of gives people a sense of what it is that you have and. Where there might be potential conflicts, and then the next thing that you're supposed to do is you're supposed to divest everything. So trump does not legally have to do this because the criminal conflicts of interest statute doesn't apply to the president, but it does apply to the Secretary of Commerce. So Wilbur Ross then has to sell off everything in his portfolio that could overlap with his responsibilities as secretary of Commerce. And he doesn't have to do it right away. You've got you know a little bit of a grace period so you can do it over several months and you're making the promise that is. Going to stay away from anything that could be related to my own financial interests in that intervening period. Stick to that promise? No, he did not. Just give you one example. He didn't disclose one of his holdings in a railcar company called Greenbrier but then not only did he not disclose it but then he held a meeting with the CEO of Greenbrier in the basement of the White House when the Greenbrier CEO was in town to talk about government matters. and. There's some ethics officials who think that even if you just take the meeting that's already a crime but certainly, if you act upon any business things that you learn in the meeting, that's a crime. Wilbur Ross says that they didn't talk about business that was a purely social meeting. But that wasn't the only meeting. He met with. CEO of Chevron. When his wife still held a large interest in Chevron and for purposes of the law, his wife holds an interest in a company. It's the same thing as if he owns an interest in a company is just as vulnerable from a legal perspective and there are other meetings. You know he meets with the CEO Boeing and at that time again, his wife holds what looks like a multimillion dollar stake in Boeing, we can see the calendars we can see that they're talking business. I've been thinking a lot about this idea of the appearance of a conflict of interest men I think what some of your reporting on Wilbur Ross shows is that it is almost impossible to know based on publicly available records whether or not. He is truly conflicted because it involves knowing what his intent is I mean in many ways the appearance of a conflict of interest is the best indicator that we have. You can't get inside somebody's head. Wilbur Ross changes policy because I own millions of dollars with Chevron stock, but that's not going to happen you know and. The reason that the laws are set up sooner then you have to divest at the start. Is that then nobody has to wonder..