A progressive ethics watchdog group is questioning U.S. President Donald Trump's business ethics. The Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, said in a statement that Trump's ethical standards have been sketchy in some areas.
"He just swore on the Bible to 'preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States," but by continuing to accept payments from foreign governments, he has already failed, the statement said, adding "We do not yet know just to what extent this violation goes - because he is the first person elected to the presidency in decades to fail to clear the ethical bar of Richard Nixon and release his tax returns, much of his foreign business has remained secret."
Trump said recently he is creating a trust in which his two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, along with one of his Trump Organization executives, will run his global business interests. The plan falls short, however, of demands that he sell all his holdings and place his wealth in a blind trust in which he would have no idea how his money is invested.
Ethics officials who worked for president Barack Obama and his predecessor president George W. Bush have said that anything short of placing Trump's extensive assets in a blind trust would leave him open to repeated questions whether actions he takes as president would benefit his financial interests.
CREW also said Trump appears to be in violation of his lease on the historic Old Post Office building in Washington - site of the Trump International Hotel - because "the lease bars elected government officials from receiving any benefits that may arise from the lease."
CREW Executive Director Noah Bookbinder said about Trump's Old Post Office deal, "We know Trump likes to renegotiate contracts for better deals. If that happened here, it will be the President negotiating against the government he leads."
The group said it filed a complaint on the issue with a government office Friday. Neither that office nor the Trump administration has yet responded to the complaint.
On another front, CREW said it has filed a suit against the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for failing to turn over information about possible questionnaires from Trump's transition team seeking the names of the people working on climate change.
"We know that NOAA received our request, but have not heard anything since. The law is simple, they have to respond," Bookbinder said. "If they have information about the Trump team's search for climate scientists, Americans deserve to know; and if they don't a simple 'no' would suffice, but there's no reason to withhold that information."