April 01, 2019

Duckworth, Durbin Help Re-Introduce Bill Requiring President and Vice President to Fully Disclose and Divest Conflicts of Interest


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and 28 of their colleagues in re-introducing legislation requiring the President and Vice President to disclose and divest any potential financial conflicts of interest. The Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act would also require presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any specific matters involving the president's financial conflicts of interest that come before their agencies.

 "It should never be a question whether the President and the Vice President of the United States are doing what's best for themselves or what's best for the American people,” said Duckworth. “That's why I am joining Senators Warren and Durbin in re-introducing the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act to ensure every presidential administration meets what have been the strongest ethical standards for decades. Government officials must do everything in their power to eliminate conflicts of interest because the American people-not personal profit-always come first.”

 “Elected officials have a solemn responsibility to always put the interests of the American people above their own,” Durbin said. “I’ve been concerned that President Trump and his cabinet’s financial entanglements could impact their ability to lead our nation and make choices without conflicts of interest. I’m reintroducing this bill because transparency and accountability is sorely needed in this Administration.”

 “Corruption has always been the central stain of this presidency,” said Senator Warren. “This bill would force President Trump to fully divest from the same Trump properties and assets that special interests have spent two-plus years patronizing to try and curry favor with this administration – all while lining the President’s pockets.”

 Currently, Presidents and Vice Presidents are exempt from many federal financial conflicts of interest laws, but for decades presidents have addressed concerns regarding foreign and domestic conflicts of interest by divesting their financial interests and placing them in a true blind trust or the equivalent. To ensure compliance with the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, the bill would codify this longstanding practice by:

  • Requiring the President, Vice President, their spouses, and minor or dependent children to divest all interests that create financial conflicts of interest by placing those assets in a true blind trust, which would be managed by an independent trustee who would oversee the sale of assets and place the proceeds in conflict-free holdings;
  • Adopting a sense of the Congress that the President's violation of financial conflicts of interest laws or the ethics requirements that apply to executive branch employees constitute a high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution; and
  • Prohibiting presidential appointees from participating in matters that directly involve the financial interests of the president.

 In June of 2017, Duckworth and Durbin both joined a lawsuit alleging President Trump has violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause. Last October, they wrote a letter to President Trump asking for full disclosure on any financial ties between the Trump Organization and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

 In addition to Duckworth, Durbin and Warren, the legislation is cosponsored by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CN), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Edward Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Tina Smith (D-MN), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).