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Trump’s Social Media Company Opens New Avenue for Conflicts of Interest

U.S.Trump’s Social Media Company Opens New Avenue for Conflicts of Interest

When former President Donald J. Trump’s social media company went public this week, supporters and investors betting on Mr. Trump’s political success helped drive the value of a loss-making firm through the roof. Mr. Trump ended the first day of public trading $4.6 billion richer on paper.

If Mr. Trump is elected president, it may not be the last time the company is used as a vehicle to benefit Mr. Trump’s pocketbook, experts said.

Trump Media & Technology Group — the owner of Truth Social, the site Mr. Trump uses to rally his backers and blast his opponents — could present a new, fairly straightforward route for foreign leaders or special interests to try to influence him. Should he retain his control of the company while in office, the ethical questions that arose from Mr. Trump’s hotels and other properties in his first term as president would only multiply when applied to a publicly traded media company, they said.

“This will be a very easy vehicle for foreign governments that want to curry favor with the president to throw money at him in a way that benefits his financial bottom line,” said Jack Goldsmith, a law professor at Harvard University and a top Justice Department official under President George W. Bush.

Corporations and other players wanting to sway Mr. Trump could buy advertising on Truth Social, other experts said. They could try to get on his radar by buying shares in the company. As the nation’s leader whose every utterance is monitored around the world, Mr. Trump would also be in an extraordinary position to drive traffic — and ultimately revenue — by the habitual use of the site.

Ethics experts see few legal obstacles to these scenarios. Presidents are not covered by federal conflict-of-interest law, and efforts to use constitutional checks failed during Mr. Trump’s first term.

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