Donald Trump was a very unconventional candidate during the primaries and the campaign. Now it looks like he will be the same as president. But while being different is OK in a campaign, that's not necessarily true in a presidency. It could create serious problems -- both for himself and for this country.
Here's much of what Annie Karni had to say about Trump's flouting of the rules and traditions of the presidency in Politico.com:
President-elect Donald Trump has said he might do away with regular press briefings and daily intelligence reports. He wants to retain private security while receiving secret service protection, even after the inauguration. He is encouraging members of his family to take on formal roles in his administration, testing the limits of anti-nepotism statutes. And he is pushing the limits of ethics laws in trying to keep a stake in his business.
In a series of decisions and comments since his election last month -- from small and stylistic preferences to large and looming conflicts -- Trump has signaled that he intends to run his White House much like he ran his campaign: with little regard for tradition. And in the process of writing his own rules, he is shining a light on how much of the American political system is encoded in custom, and how little is based in the law.
On Jan. 20, Trump will take the oath of office having never released his tax returns, the first incoming president not to do so in four decades, and he has not given a press conference since he was elected, flouting another custom for presidents-elect. It remains to be seen whether he will file a personal financial disclosure during his first year in office. Presidents are not legally required to do so, but all have since 1978. . . .
It’s a natural extension of how Trump ran his unorthodox presidential campaign and transition effort -- but the expectations are different for a President Trump. “Candidate is one thing, president is another,” said Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, who served as chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. He added: “He said things that were clearly unconstitutional, but there's no legal prohibition about saying you're going to do something unconstitutional. There is against doing something unconstitutional.”
But Trump is finding the holes in the system wherever he can. The looming challenge for the president elect and his incoming White House counsel, the combative libertarian Donald McGahn, will be navigating the difference between presidential norms and constitutional and legal requirements that carry potentially dangerous domestic and international consequences. . . .
Trump’s top aides claim his approach is consistent with the person America elected and his campaign promises to be a different kind of president. And longtime associates said they expect Trump to be emboldened to make his own rules by his unexpected victory that he delivered by relying mostly on his own instincts and disregarding the conventional wisdom of campaigns. . . .
The question Trump’s presidency will help answer is whether anybody cares. If Trump becomes the first president not to release his tax returns in April, and the suspicion grows that he has no intention of doing so, said Bauer, “it may well be Congress comes under pressure to pass a law requiring the release of the returns. Maybe Congress will, maybe it won't, but at least what then happens could clarify just how strongly the the public feels about having this information."
As the Trump transition figures out the biggest hurdle of all -- how to separate Trump from his business interests at home and abroad -- experts said the next best thing to following any legal requirements will be catastrophizing the consequences Trump risks opening himself up to if he does not divest and place his assets in a blind trust.
While he is not required by law to place his assets in a blind trust, he could open himself up to criminal complaints and oversight hearings if there is private money connected to the apparatus of government.
“They are for the most part optional but important precautionary measures to reduce risk,” said Norman Eisen, who served as the ethics czar under President Obama, referring to using a blind trust for Trump’s business assets, releasing tax returns, filing financial disclosure forms, providing full press access and relying on private security. “They may seem relatively minor taken individually. Collectively they increase his risk profile, legally, but also physically. That's reckless for him personally, even more so for the country he leads.”
There might be upsides for convenience and for Trump’s sense of freedom, as he enters the confines of the White House. But “in my opinion, having administered some of these practices in the first years of the Obama administration, that is not nearly enough to make up for the risk,” Eisen said.