Saturday, February 17, 2018
Politics

Donald Trump Jr., running the family business, says he has nearly 'zero contact' with his father

During the presidential campaign, Donald Trump Jr. was one of the most ardent and visible supporters of his father's candidacy.

The eldest son of President Donald Trump traveled nationwide, giving speeches, holding fundraisers and appearing on television to stump for his dad — and even advocating for some of his own causes during the transition.

Now, though, the younger Trump says he hardly keeps in touch with his father anymore.

"I basically have zero contact with him at this point," he said at a Dallas County GOP fundraiser Saturday, according to NBC News. The news network reported that the Texas event — the group's annual Reagan Day dinner also attended by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas — was his first political function since his father's inauguration.

"I thought I was out of politics after Election Day and get back to my regular life and my family," Donald Jr. added, according to NBC. "But I couldn't."

It is unclear what "basically ... zero contact" encompasses in terms of actual communication — or what Trump's eldest son meant when he said he couldn't stay away from politics. The Trump organization did not immediately respond to an email Sunday.

But Donald Jr.'s comments came as the relationships between the president, his adult children and the Trump organization continue to face scrutiny.

Since Trump was elected, his opponents have sought to make sure the billionaire and head of the family real estate and licensing company disentangles himself from his business interests.

During the transition, an attorney for Trump said at a much-hyped news conference that the president-elect had "relinquished leadership and management of the Trump organization." The management of the family business would fall to his two adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as longtime Trump executive Allen Weisselberg. (Trump's older daughter, Ivanka Trump, already had left her position as executive vice president of the business, after facing allegations of conflict of interest.)

However, Trump's critics have said that the president has not done enough to isolate himself from potential conflicts of interest by choosing not to divest from or sell off his shares in the Trump organization. As the Washington Post reported in January, some ethics advisers saw the setup creating a "potential back channel for investors to curry favor with the new president."

"Even if Trump had divested, given the nature and extent of the domestic and global conflicts, what was called for was a full-time ethics czar," Norm Eisen, a chief White House ethics adviser during the Obama administration, told the Post then. "But given the fact that Trump did not make a clean ownership break, the risk and complexity is only escalated."

Last week, three watchdog groups asked then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara to investigate whether the president violated the "emoluments clause" of the Constitution by receiving payments or other benefits from foreign governments through his business interests.

As the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Bharara worked in a jurisdiction that includes the Manhattan headquarters of the Trump organization. In their letter, the watchdog groups urged Bharara to look into whether any "foreign governments may be seeking to influence Executive Branch policies and positions."

It is unclear whether Bharara had initiated any investigation or responded to the groups' letter. The federal prosecutor had over his nearly eight-year tenure developed a reputation for being tough on corruption on Wall Street and by politicians on both sides of the aisle. Trump himself had met with Bharara during his transition to discuss "whether or not I'd be prepared to stay on ... to do the work as we have done it, independently, without fear or favor, for the last seven years," the attorney said.

However, within a week of receiving that letter, Bharara abruptly lost his job, part of a house-cleaning of 46 U.S. attorneys appointed by President Barack Obama. Bharara said Saturday he was fired after he refused to tender his resignation.

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