In the early days of his campaign, reporters were actually worried about Donald Trump still appearing on The Apprentice as his campaign continued. He quickly put those worries to bed by bringing in none other than The Governator, Arnold Schwarzenegger, to be the face of the show. TV execs at NBC salivated. If there was anyone who could step in and match Trump’s level of business savvy and bombast, it was Arnie. Celebrity Apprentice was bound to be a hit.
Then Trump won, and journalists began writing headlines with three ulcer-inducing words for NBC – conflict of interest. As it turned out, Trump wasn’t exactly as divorced from the program as he implied. He still plans to serve as an executive producer for the program. Now, shows have lots of “producers,” and many of them have been known to not be directly involved in anything related to the actual production of the show.
Right wing media yawned. Nothing to see here. Left wing media flipped out. Enter Trump spokesperson Kellyanne Conway, who told CNN Trump’s ties to the show are being reviewed by “experts” who are looking into all of Trump’s business ties.
These ties continue to create headlines, and possible headaches, for the President-Elect, less than six weeks from the Inauguration. It’s known that Trump has a financial stake in the program, though how much is not known … nor is it known if it really matters.
Presidents are allowed to have interests, even financial interests, that might disqualify other elected or appointed federal officials. Since nearly anything a President has an interest in could, potentially, create a conflict of interest, the position is protected from some of the strictures other federal officials must live and work with.
So, it may not cost Trump anything legally or financially, but it could cost him politically. Every elected official goes through a honeymoon phase where his or her voters hope they will keep at least some of their promises. But, when they don’t, voters go looking for reasons to dislike them, to criticize and berate.
Trump’s business connections will be right out there, low hanging fruit, for voters who think, “fool me once” … that is unless Trump delivers. If that happens, you can bet his supporters will be willing to forgive just about anything. But, if not, his PR team will find themselves in a very deep hole, with the majority of the press corps ready and willing to go after their boss.