Over the last few days the White House has released the ethics disclosures of senior white house staff. The figures revealed surprised many when they confirmed the richest ever White House and also the fact that their total worth was more than the GDPs of 64 countries. At the same time, and without accusing solely #Donald Trump, it is paradoxical that the one person with the most to gain from any possible conflict of interest is the one person excluded from the disclosures.

Tax returns

One issue followed Donald Trump for the whole course of the presidential campaign beginning with the primaries.

The businessman with political ambitions refused to release his tax returns with the initial excuse that they were under audit. When the Tax Office announced that they could be publicized the answer then became that they would be released when he won.

When he won the election he continued this refusal and then he even refused to follow the accepted practice of putting his properties into a blind trust for the term of his presidency.

At the first press conference after election a lawyer explained the system that Donald Trump would employ to avoid perceived conflicts of interest by turning over control of the Trump business empire to his sons. This solution was criticized by many ethics officials as insufficient.

In the meantime the American Civil Liberties Union has begun court action for possible breeches of the “emoluments” clause of the Constitution. It is still too soon to know the outcome of these actions.


On this matter Donald Trump’s reply that he was not covered by law to make the disclosures was correct. The President is the one person excluded from the legislation.

In the past tradition and practice governed the behaviour of candidates and Presidents on these matters. It was expected that President’s would observe the practice without the requirement of legislation and up to now Presidents had respected the practice.

Therefore this will need a legislative basis to ensure that in the future Conflicts Of Interest are respected in a transparent manner by all White House staff, including the President.


Furthermore, in the wake of last week’s disclosures two members of the Trump family, daughter #Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner, disclosed a net worth of $750 million and many ethics experts interviewed on the weekend expressed concerns that their behaviour may contravene conflicts of interest legislation. Sheer consistency would dictate that these concerns should also extend to the head of that family.

This is a situation that Congress and the Senate should debate and eventually decide upon but it is unlikely as long as the GOP controls both Houses with a Republican in the Oval Office.

While legislators will now be required to clarify this situation once and for all, it is sad that the lack of respect for the past means that the White House will lose a valued tradition, one which as a source of pride for all previous Presidents.