Donald Trump, the tanned and splayed hide of Chester Cheetah and our president-elect, has not said one—or tweeted—one word about the ongoing protests near the Standing Rock reservation by Native people and their allies against the Dakota Access pipeline. Trump was or is a shareholder in Energy Transfer Partners, the company building the pipeline, as well as an affiliated company. A spokeswoman says he sold his shares. That’s unconfirmed. Meanwhile, Trump is staying silent, for once. Why might that be?
The context here, of course, is that Trump tweets in an unrestrained and free-spirited fashion, and he has a specific interest in oil and oil pipelines. He commented obsessively on the now-scrapped Keystone XL pipeline, which he viewed as a job-creating tool (not really) and “good for the environment” (Jesus Christ, no)
Trump is also a reliable commentator on anything that might come across the morning shows, especially house organ Fox News. That channel has become fixated of late on how the protesters are asking for supplies, which is of course terrible and bad.
On November 29, Nathan Tempey, a very good reporter at Gothamist, pointed out that Trump’s May disclosure forms showed that he still owned stock then in Energy Transfer Partners and Phillips 66, a related company. As Tempey also pointed out, there’s a little inconsistency in whether Trump still owns those shares, according to statements made by his spokeswoman Hope Hicks:
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks claimed to the Washington Post last week that Trump sold his Energy Transfer Partners stock over the summer. The company declined to comment, citing a policy against discussing individual shareholders, and Hicks did not repeat her claim in a subsequent statement to the Associated Press on the subject. The Trump team did not respond to an email seeking comment.
Trump is not one to shy away from talking about something because it might invite controversy or look like a conflict of interest, since, after all, as he told the New York Times, “the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” (While he recently promised to take himself “completely out of business operations,” his children are still both slated to run his company, members of his transition team, and, in Ivanka’s case, accompanying him to meetings with world leaders.)
So it’s curious, then, that the president-elect is so eerily quiet about something that must be so fascinating to him, and in fact could impact him personally and financially. Have we ever known Trump to be quiet about anything? Ever? For any length of time?
Maybe—and I am just spitballing here — it has something to do with the fact that Energy Transfer Partners CEO Kelcy Warren donated over $100,000 to the Trump campaign. In early November, Warren confidently asserted that the disputed section of the pipeline near tribal land would be completed under President Trump: “We will get this easement and we will complete our project,” he said. Under Trump, he added, it is “100 percent” certain that the easement is granted “and the pipeline gets built.”
“Pipelines do leak,” Warren told CBS cheerily, in the same interview. However, he added, “It’s rare. I think the chances of this pipeline leaking is extremely remote.”
Perhaps the media can do here what we failed to do with Trump’s tax returns: Start asking about his thoughts about the Dakota pipeline, his stakes in the company, and whether he’s financially behold to the ETP and its CEO, and don’t stop. Or, you know, sit back and consider this and the thousands of other conflicts of interest awaiting him as president.