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Trump’s lawyer is totally wrong about Nelson Rockefeller

Standing before a room full of journalists in New York this morning, Sheri Dillon, the lead attorney hired by Donald Trump to help advise him on his financial conflicts of interest, decided to offhandedly say something false about former Vice President Nelson Rockefeller.

Rockefeller, a longtime governor of New York and leader of the Republican Party’s moderate wing, became vice president under unusual circumstances. Richard Nixon resigned in disgrace, which elevated Gerald Ford to the presidency and created a vacancy, which Rockefeller filled.

Rockefeller was very rich, an heir to the famous Rockefeller fortune, which posed some potential financial conflicts of interest. Dillon characterized the similarity between the situations this way: “You know, the business empire built by President-elect Trump over the years is massive, not dissimilar to the fortunes of Nelson Rockefeller when he became vice president. But at that time, no one was so concerned.”

It is simply not true that no one was so concerned. On the contrary, in a September 1974 article, Linda Charlton reported for the New York Times: “Rockefeller Vows Full Cooperation.”

Vice President‐designate Nelson A. Rockefeller, arriving for the start, tomorrow morning of his confirmation hearing, said again today that he would be “delighted” to do whatever Congress asked to resolve any potential conflict of interest—including placing his holdings in a blind trust.

Mr. Rockefeller arrived with his wife Happy and an entourage of aides and Secret Service agents. Mrs. Rockefeller, accompanied by a friend, Mrs. Bonnie Iselin, and carrying her husband's briefcase, went directly from the Rockefellers’ private jet to a waiting limousine.

This is exactly what ethics experts say Trump should do. Create a real blind trust to hold his assets. That’s what previous wealthy presidents have done. It’s true that given the nature of Trump’s holdings getting this done would be logistically complicated and might entail financial losses for him. But that’s Trump’s problem, not ours.

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