March 27, 2019

Warren Leads 30 Colleagues in Reintroducing Bill to Require the President and Vice President to Fully Divest Their Financial Conflicts of Interests

First introduced in January 2017, the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act could have reined in over two years of White House conflicts of interest

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), along with 30 of her Senate colleagues, yesterday reintroduced the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, a bill that would require the President and Vice President to disclose and divest any potential financial conflicts of interest. It also would require presidential appointees to recuse themselves from any specific matters involving the president's financial conflicts of interest that come before their agencies. The bill has garnered wide support among Democrats since first introduced by Senator Warren and 23 of her colleagues in January 2017. Today, senators joining the legislation include: Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Cory A. Booker (D-N.J.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Robert P. Casey, Jr. (D-Pa.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Christopher Murphy (D-Conn.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Gary C. Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).
H.R. 1 (For the People Act, landmark legislation to strengthen federal ethics laws that already passed the House) included similar provisions to require the President and Vice President to divest their financial interests.

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.

"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."

The Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act is part of Senator Warren's broader agenda to crack down on Washington corruption. In August 2018, she introduced the Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act, the most ambitious anti-corruption legislation since Watergate. The Anti-Corruption and Public Integrity Act includes a comprehensive set of policy solutions to fundamentally change the way Washington does business and restore the American public's faith in democracy.

Senator Warren has also opened a number of oversight investigations into President Trump's and his administration's apparent conflicts of interest, including a 2019 investigation into reports that T-Mobile executives started to regularly patronize President Trump's hotel in Washington D.C. immediately after announcing a proposed merger with its rival, Sprint. Under the Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act, President Trump would not be able retain the financial assets that have raised questions about such conflicts of interest potentially violating the Constitution's Emoluments Clause.