Senate Dems seek divestment blind trust for Trump’s assets

Five Democratic senators on Thursday unveiled a bill they plan to release next month that would require Donald Trump to divest assets that risk a conflict of interest and place the proceeds in a blind trust as well as require his appointees to step aside from official decisions that could benefit him.

The legislation previewed by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) also would symbolically deem any Trump violation of federal conflict-of-interest rules “a high crime or misdemeanor under the impeachment clause of the U.S. Constitution,” according to a summary released by its sponsors.

Although its chances of advancing in the GOP-controlled Congress are close to zero, the bill represents the latest step by Democrats to escalate their ethics war with the president-elect.

More than 20 Senate Democrats on Tuesday released a letter urging Trump to heed the counsel of the nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics, which has warned the president-elect that his plans to transfer control of his vast holdings to his sons would not be enough to eliminate conflicts of interest. Senate Democrats also have called on top Trump nominees to release their tax returns as part of the vetting process before their confirmation votes.

The five Democrats’ planned bill could become a vehicle for the minority to put political pressure on Republicans by forcing Trump’s party to support his still-incomplete plan for separating his official duties in the White House from his sprawling business.

“The American people deserve to know that the president of the United States is working to do what’s best for the country — not using his office to do what’s best for himself and his businesses,” Warren said in a statement on the measure.

The proposal’s reference to impeachment could divide Democrats, however, with some moderates interested in exploring ways to work with Trump when possible. House Democrats expanded their own ethics case against Trump on Wednesday at a mock hearing that — like Thursday’s bill — cites the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which bars officials from receiving payments from foreign governments or businesses they control.