Hillary Clinton’s conflicts of interest—arising from the Clinton Foundation—were the source of much scrutiny during the campaign, and were a favorite target of Donald Trump and his Republican allies. But, as many people pointed out, often to little avail, Trump’s conflicts of interest are unprecedented in American history. Trump is not only the first businessman to be president—itself a huge can of worms—but he is also the first largely failed businessman to be president, meaning that he has a complex web of debt that could result in even the most mundane government decisions being considered conflicts of interest. (We would have a much better sense of exactly how complicated this situation is if Trump were to release his tax returns.)
Trump’s debt is held by banks in Russia and Germany and China; his holdings are not being managed by an independent manager, another break from tradition; his businesses have benefited from a number of tax breaks and subsidies and are subject to a mountain of lawsuits; and Trump is involved with “more than 500 companies, some in countries where the U.S. has sensitive diplomatic or financial relationships, such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and China,” according to The Washington Post.
At the very least, this is uncharted territory. But Trump has shown no interest doing anything to mitigate these various conflicts. And there is no law preventing Trump from continuing to manage his businesses while acting as president. Congressman and other government officials are required to disclose their finances, but presidents are not.
Historically speaking, they have anyways. Trump may distance himself from the Trump Organization, but considering the way his campaign was run—and his well-publicized complaints that he was not able to monetize it—there are a number of signs that Trump and his family could use the office of the presidency to further their financial interests in new ways. You can make a lot of money by floating access to the president, and right now there’s nothing stopping Trump or his family from doing exactly that.