A president’s conflicts of interest cannot be untangled by statute

There is a reason that the president is not subject to the federal conflicts-of-interest statute. The qualifications for assuming the presidency are set forth in the Constitution, as are the powers that the president may exercise (“The White House is not just another asset,’’ Editorial, Jan. 16). They may not be modified by a statute such as Senator Warren’s proposed Presidential Conflicts of Interest Act of 2017.

A conflict of interest exists whenever there is a conflict between the private interests and public responsibilities of a person in a position of public trust. Presidents have always had such conflicts of interest to the extent their private interest includes retaining political office or popularity. Limiting the subject to financial conflicts of interest, four of the first five and eight of the first 11 presidents were plantation owners at a time when the major national issues were tariffs, which affected their ability to buy cheaper foreign goods, and slavery.

Absent a disability, a president cannot recuse himself from presidential duties. The only remedy for a presidential conflict of interest is vigilance. If a president acts in his own interest to the detriment of the public interest, the solution is the ballot box or impeachment.

Brian R. Merrick, West Barnstable