Could he profit from promoting his holdings in office? Absolutely, say legal scholars. Just as there is no law barring a candidate from using his soapbox to make money during a campaign, Trump will be able to promote businesses he continues to own from the West Wing podium. He would also have wide latitude to take official acts that benefit his empire. “There would be nothing that would preclude him from making a decision on trade or otherwise that could impact, for better or worse, those interests,” says Don Fox, the former General Counsel and Acting Director of the Office of Government Ethics. “It simply would not be a violation of law.”
That’s because the nation’s founders designed a system where the President is primarily answerable directly to voters. The potential for conflicts of interest is ingrained in a government “of the people.” James Madison wrote in the Federalist Papers it would be “vain” to believe that future leaders could always separate the self-concern from the national interest. “Conflict of interest for elected officials has been kind of embedded in our constitutional framework,” said Richard Painter, the former chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. As ethics laws were written and revised over the years the rationale has remained the same—no issue can be off limits for a president.
That means Presidential press conferences could be legally held from the Trump hotel, where a president Trump continues to boast of the property’s offerings. Trump bottled water could be served in the White House, and Trump could choose to stay in his properties on foreign trips.