Maybe we should ask if you can say “pay for play”? The latest bombshell from the Trump team makes both of these questions viable and should be asked by his supporters as well.
Besides the fact that neither Trump nor seemingly anyone on his team understands how the government works, like asking the current west wing staff how many would be leaving with President Obama (the answer is all of them) Trump also doesn’t understand who is allowed to get security clearances.
Trump has said over and over that his children will run his companies. He also said they would run them in a “blind trust” which is impossible since they will be talking to their father.
Then he put all of his children on his transition team. Meaning while they are taking over his companies, they are also getting to know the governments workers they will need to have on their side for various international business deals.
Now it is reported that Donald Trump thinks that his three children plus the husband of Ivanka should all get Top Secret clearances. He says they will be “unofficial security advisors” and need the clearances.
Let’s be clear about something. These children should NOT get Top Secret clearances or any clearance for that matter. They have no legitimate “need to know” what is contained in classified material.
In order to receive a clearance of any kind, you must have an “official” position with the government. Either civilian, military, or contractor. There is no way any “unofficial” position is entitled to getting a classified clearance. Sorry, but that is the law.
Secondly, if these children are going to be running his companies, international companies, wouldn’t that open the door to huge conflict of interest charges? Wouldn’t that also open the door for “pay to play” charges? What is the need to know classified material have to do with running private companies with no contracts with the government? None.
Bradley Moss, a lawyer specializing in security-clearance law said it best:
This is why we created the nepotism law in the first place. Huge conflicts of interest. You can’t have your kids being advisers. It has to be properly qualified officials who are experts in the fields. It’s an issue of comfort for the President-elect because he’s relied on his children so much. But I don’t foresee a viable legal or ethical loophole or exception.
In 1967 an anti-nepotism law was passed that states a President cannot hire his family members into the federal government. And, since you must have some official capacity in the government to get a security clearance that should be impossible in Trump’s case. Moss went on to say:
Even if they came in as unpaid advisers, there’s no such thing as an informal government position that allows you to be sponsored for access to classified information. There’s no exception. There’s no loopholes.
Mark Zaid, another national security lawyer said:
This is not the family business, this is the presidency. The days of family nepotism is over, not just due to policy and practice but by law. Security clearances are not candies to be doled out like at Halloween. You must have a ‘need-to-know’ that is supposed to be taken seriously in advancing the business of the government rather than an individual.
There is only one reason for Trump to want his children to have security clearances. To help them know what is going on with the government so they have leverage in international business deals and grow their companies.
Even without security clearances there is still the real danger of international interests trying to do business with the children in order to gain access and/or favors from their President father. As Trump would say himself, that is pay for play.
One of the real quirks of our political system and the laws surrounding it is that a President cannot hire his immediate family to government positions, but there is nothing in the law that forces that same person to place his personal business interests in a “blind trust” to avoid conflicts of interest.
Maybe that is because we have never been faced with this before. In the past, no one elected for President would even consider not placing their business interests in a blind trust or divest themselves from it completely. But then again, in recent history no one running for President refused to release their tax returns until Trump.
It is that secrecy of where Trump gets his money from, and how many foreign governments he has ties with that makes this whole situation so obviously dangerous. When Trump decides on some foreign policy, we will be wondering if he is doing so based on what is best for the country or his own company.
With his history of secrecy concerning his business dealings, we will never know. Or, we will know when it is too late to do something about it. Since they will have, nor be allowed by law to have any official connection of working for the Federal Government, I can think of no reason they should even be considered for a security clearance.
I think that Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center summed it up best when he said:
If President-elect Trump seeks a security clearance for his children, it will show he either has no understanding of the potential conflict of interest problems he faces or doesn’t care. If he seeks a security clearance for his children who are running the businesses, it will undermine the credibility of any claim that his children will not be involved in advising him on government policies. It raises the real danger that his children will be able to influence government decisions to benefit Trump businesses and run those businesses with inside knowledge of actions and policies the government take.
All during this election I said that I believed Donald Trump was unfit and unqualified to be our President. So far, he is proving me right just about every day. First he names a White Nationalist, anti-Semite to be his top advisor, and then he asks for security clearances for children that won’t have any official position in the government.
How bad will things get once he actually takes office?