New language in Trump trust documents causes networks to disagree

“The Trustees shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request.”

This is the new language in the Donald Trump trust that was supposed to separate Donald Trump from his businesses.

On April 3, CBS led its broadcast with this language. Neither of the other networks covered the story.

ABC led with a story on Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, while NBC did a seven-minute special report from a base in South Korea about North Korea.

Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s lawyer, confirmed to the non-profit ProPublica that broke this story that Donald Trump has been able to since the Inauguration. This seemingly disputes what another Trump lawyer said in a Jan. 11 press conference, that Trump was “completely isolating himself from his business interests.”

Is this story newsworthy if CBS was the only network to cover it? Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor for the Atlantic, says yes.

“This is a big story, a big part of Trump’s unprecedented actions involving his business and violations of both the Emoluments Clauses [sic] in the Constitution,” Ornstein said.

The Emoluments Clause attempts to ensure the President of the United States has no conflicts on interest.

No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State. -Article 1, Section 9, Clause 8 of the US Constitution

 Ornstein says the press conference announcing Trump’s separation from his businesses created a pledge:

“This was a direct violation of that pledge, but also, because of the secrecy, it meant no one could know what transactions were occurring– perhaps with foreign governments or related entities– and in what amounts,” Ornstein said.

Ornstein agrees with the decision to cover the story and lead with it. He said the other networks made a mistake.

“ABC and NBC were seriously remiss in their responsibilities as watchdogs.”


Michael Stern

Michael Stern is a senior broadcast journalism major from Plainsboro, New Jersey. He is the co-founder of The Left Bench, the co-founder of Beltway Bulletin, the sports director of WMUC Sports and is a production crew chief at Capital News Service. Michael has also reported and producer for Capital News Service through his four years at Maryland. Michael has interned at USA Today, NBC News Channel and WTOP, and worked at the inauguration for CBS. His passion for political journalism started in fourth grade when he started a school newspaper and wrote his first article on whether or not Hillary Clinton would run for President in 2008.

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