Reed looks the other way while President's double dealing risks U.S. interests

At a town hall in Pulteney last weekend I asked our congressman, Tom Reed, to weigh our president’s potential conflicts of interest against the right to privacy vis á vis his tax returns.

President Trump has business dealings all over the world. These include real estate holdings, other investments, banking and debts, litigation, favors, friendships, hostilities, relationships of all kinds with leaders of government and industry. Other presidents have routinely put their private holdings in blind trusts, so as not to find themselves torn between what is good for their bottom line and what is good for the country. President Trump has steadfastly refused to do this. He wants us to believe that by putting his sons in charge of the business, he has left it all behind.

The problem is, we already know that Vladimir Putin interfered in our presidential election with the intention of damaging Hillary Clinton’s reputation and electing Trump. While that was going on, Donald Trump was praising Putin as a great leader. Seems like a neat little deal, but maybe it was a big deal; and if so, what was the real price? Installing the world’s number two oilman as secretary of state (Putin being number one, and also the richest person in the world)? Having that guy fire generations of professional talent and institutional memory from the State Department, where sound decisions about foreign policy are worked out?

What else might Putin want, now that he seems to be calling the shots? Gutting of the EPA, so that the fossil fuel industry, of which he is the top beneficiary, can squeeze every last drop of profit from the Earth’s crust, without regard for the safety of our children’s children? Oh, right. The EPA has already been gutted.

Well, we know he wants those pesky sanctions lifted (the ones President Obama imposed after learning that our election had been violated by a hostile foreign government), so that shoe will probably drop soon.

Now we citizens have our own conflicts of interest. Do we:

1. look away from what appears a real and present danger,

2. start teaching our children Russian, or

3. stand up, stick our necks out, and demand answers, even as we risk the disapproval of relatives and friends who think we are disloyal, overreacting, radical.

About 200 citizens showed up in Pulteney on Saturday, choosing the third option above. Most of them demanded to see the president’s tax returns, not to mention a robust, independent investigation into his ties with Russia.

In answer to my question, Congressman Reed said the president’s privacy is the important thing here.

Lee Marcus is a Hornell area playwright and former Evening Tribune columnist.