Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Business

PolitiFact: Giuliani correct that President Trump will be exempt from conflict-of-interest laws

The statement

Financial conflict-of-interest "laws don't apply to the president, right? So, the president doesn't have to have a blind trust."

Rudy Giuliani, Nov. 13 on CNN's State of the Union

The ruling

President-elect Donald Trump has said his children will manage his business dealings. Many presidents in the past have put their assets in a blind trust, which is when an independent trustee manages another person's assets without the person's input.

But Trump doesn't actually have to do any of this because the financial conflict-of-interest laws don't apply to him as president, said former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Giuliani has the law pretty much right. Trump, as president, has no legal obligation to detach himself from his businesses and financial interests.

The law at issue is Title 18 Section 208 of the U.S. code. It says federal executive branch employees can't participate in government matters in which they or their immediate family have a financial interest.

Because of this law, some federal employees put their investments in a blind trust. This allows them to sidestep the regulation and participate in a matter that might otherwise pose a conflict of interest.

But the president and the vice president, despite being executive branch employees, are exempt. According to the law's definitions, Title 18 Section 208 does not apply to them, and it also doesn't apply to members of Congress or federal judges.

"It appears that presidents have mostly escaped the normal web of ethics and conflict-of-interest laws," said Scott Amey, general counsel at the Project on Government Oversight, a nonpartisan government accountability watchdog.

Amey added that presidents are allowed to accept gifts in many cases, too.

It's been this way since at least 1974, when the Justice Department issued a letter saying Title 18 Section 208 did not apply to the president. Congress expressly codified the exemptions in 1989.

In the 1974 letter, the Justice Department said the legislative history of this conflict-of-interest provision indicated that it was never intended to apply to the president. Additionally, the Justice Department said placing conflict-of-interest laws on the president could constrain him in a potentially unconstitutional manner, though it did not give specific examples.

"As the head of the executive branch, the president may not be able to — and arguably under the Constitution it might not be possible to require the president to — recuse from government decisions," said Richard Briffault, a professor of legislation at Columbia Law School.

While Title 18 Section 208 is the primary conflict-of-interest provision, there are other relevant rules, including a couple that don't exempt the president.

Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will have to disclose their finances, which is required of all high-level federal employees, Briffault said. But the disclosures are not as detailed as federal tax returns, which Trump has not released.

Then there's the Constitution's Emoluments Clause, which bans U.S. government employees from accepting presents or compensation from foreign governments, noted Kathleen Clark, an expert on legal ethics and a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.

The Trump Organization has numerous foreign ties, including several overseas real estate deals with possible foreign government connections.

"If any of Trump's business arrangements involve the receipt of payments from foreign governments, I believe that he, or his entities from which he receives money, would have to forgo those payments, or he would have to detach from those entities," Clark said.

We rate Giuliani's claim True.

Edited for print. Read the full version at PolitiFact.com.

Comments
St. Petersburg set to rename main library after President Obama

St. Petersburg set to rename main library after President Obama

ST. PETERSBURG — Speaking in front of a small crowd gathered on the front lawn of the city’s main library, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Monday that the facility will get a $6 million renovation and be renamed in honor of President Barack Obama.The a...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

Sheriff’s undercover sting nabs 26 ‘brazen’ unlicensed contractors

DUNEDIN –– Pinellas sheriff’s detectives spent their weekend luring in unlicensed electrical, plumbing and other home improvement contractors to a vacant home wired with cameras.It took only hours before a stream of people arrived to work on the outd...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Tampa Electric appeals OSHA citation for fatal Big Bend accident

Tampa Electric appeals OSHA citation for fatal Big Bend accident

TAMPA — Tampa Electric Co. is formally contesting the biting citation the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration handed down in December for a maintenance incident in June that left five workers dead.At a meeting with the Tampa Bay Tim...
Updated: 9 hours ago
On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

On deck in Rays ballpark quest: Tampa Bay’s business community

TAMPA — Columbia Restaurant owner Richard Gonzmart says he’s ready to put his checkbook where his heart is when it comes to supporting a Tampa Bay Rays move to Ybor City.So is the investment fund for the founding family of Ashley Furniture. So, it ap...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Epilogue: Tourism community remembers Paradise founder Cedar Hames

Epilogue: Tourism community remembers Paradise founder Cedar Hames

When Cedar Hames spoke, you listened.He was a natural storyteller, always dressed sharp to match his wit and natural elegance. He grew a two-person business in St. Petersburg into a leading tourism, advertising and marketing agency over an esteemed 3...
Updated: 10 hours ago
Report: Winn-Dixie parent company could close 200 stores

Report: Winn-Dixie parent company could close 200 stores

Bi-Lo LLC, a subsidiary of the same Jacksonville company that owns Winn-Dixie, could file for bankruptcy as soon as next month, according to a Bloomberg report.Parent company Southeastern Grocer is planning to shut down nearly 200 stores either befor...
Updated: 11 hours ago
New bus routes, times to start on Sunday in Hillsborough

New bus routes, times to start on Sunday in Hillsborough

TAMPA — More than a dozen bus routes in Hillsborough County will have new times, paths and stops starting Sunday.The changes come almost four months after the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority rolled out an entirely new bus network, scrapp...
Updated: 11 hours ago
The small gun shop that sold the weapon to the alleged high school shooter ‘closes indefinitely.’

The small gun shop that sold the weapon to the alleged high school shooter ‘closes indefinitely.’

The aftermath of the horrific mass shooting at Florida’s Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has led to the closure of one small business.According to the Miami Herald, the owners of Sunrise Tactical Supply, the Coral Springs, Florida shop that auth...
Published: 02/19/18
Next phase for the Tampa Armature Works: co-working office space

Next phase for the Tampa Armature Works: co-working office space

TAMPA — The mixed-use rebirth of the old Tampa Armature Works warehouse is proceeding in stages. First up: last month’s debut of the new ballroom, followed closely by the opening of more than a dozen vendors in the Heights Public Market food hall.YEA...
Published: 02/19/18

Open-mic night at Pilars is a hot spot for Disney talent

WINTER GARDEN — At the end of the day, when the tourists are gone, Disney performers head out to their favorite spot to keep on singing after their shifts are over. Every Thursday, they perform at open-mic night at Pilars, a Winter Garden martini bar...
Published: 02/18/18