Donald Trump Jr., along with his brother Eric Trump, are now at the center of a major “pay-to-play” scandal in which it appears that they were selling access to the president for big dollar donations.
The Washington Post reports that the brothers dangled a unique opportunity for donors willing to pay $500,000 and more. Those donors were to have received a private reception with the new president just 24 hours after his inauguration along with an exclusive hunting or fishing outing with one of the brothers.
From the brochure draft obtained by TMZ:
Opening Day is your opportunity to play a significant role as our family commemorates the inauguration of our father, friend and President Donald J. Trump.
The Center For Public Integrity reported that the donors would also remain anonymous, creating the potential an unknown person or persons to have direct contact with the president without the public’s knowledge.
However, on Tuesday, days after the details of big-ticket “camouflage & cufflinks”-themed event was first leaked to the press, a spokeswoman for the president-elect said neither Trump nor his adult sons had any involvement in planning the event.
Meanwhile, the organizers of the event, who just so happen to include some close friends of the Trump brothers, decided to dial back their promises including access to the new president.
Donald Trump himself has managed to set the “precedent” when it comes to blurring the line ethically in terms of separating his business from his newly elected position.
The future president has repeatedly downplayed calls to sever his business ties and divest all of his holdings as every president has done before him. He’s made promises that he would leave his business ‘in total‘ and allow his children to run it.
Trump also takes every opportunity to remind people that he’s not legally obligated to step away from his businesses. On December 12, Trump tweeted:
While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!
Even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my busineses before January 20th so that I can focus full time on the......
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 13, 2016
However, most experts agree that short of a blind trust running his company, putting his kids in charge still represents a massive conflict of interest and will leave the new administration vulnerable to charges of corruption.
Many watchdog groups are concerned about Trump’s caviler attitude toward preserving the public’s trust and the integrity of his future office.
Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch, said:
This is an obvious and ongoing problem that this president will face until he creates a true firewall.
Over the years, the Trump family have become experts at the legal mincing of words.For example, while Trump’s spokeswoman denied that Eric and Donald Jr. had any involvement in the planning of the “pay-to-play” event, they
For example, while Trump’s spokesperson denied that Eric and Donald Jr. had any participation in the planning of the “pay-to-play” event, they did file paperwork in Texas to start the new “nonprofit” designed specifically to contract the organization of the event.
Images via Publicintegrity.org
So while the Trump brothers may not be involved in deciding what’s served for lunch, they participated in starting the organization that contracted the organizing.
While this may be a legal distinction, it’s not necessarily a moral one.
In a country so deeply divided, the president-elect and his family seem more interested in “Thank You Tours” and making a quick buck.
This story is yet another indication of how for the next four years the Trump family will continue to test the boundaries of what’s ethically and legally permissible to capitalize financially on Donald Trump’s presidency.
Featured image via Ethan Miller/Getty Images