The presidency isn’t enough for Donald Trump.
While in the Oval Office, he’ll moonlight as an executive producer for Celebrity Apprentice, the NBC show he starred on for more than a decade.
It is not merely a ceremonial role. Trump will be paid at least five-figures per episode, Variety reports.
The arrangement is an unprecedented, ongoing financial entanglement between NBC, which also operates one of the nation’s leading news organizations, and a sitting president. Trump will be paid by MGM, which produces the show.
In June 2015, after Trump made bigoted remarks about immigrants, NBC publicly severed its financial relationship with him and said he would no longer be participating in The Apprentice.
“He would never be back on Celebrity Apprentice, as long as I’m here,” NBC entertainment chairman Robert Greenblatt said.
That, apparently, is all in the past.
The unusual arrangement also raises questions about the role Mark Burnett, the creator of The Apprentice, played in bottling up footage that could have damaged Trump’s presidential campaign.
— Bill Pruitt (@billpruitt) October 8, 2016
BuzzFeed News reported that Burnett “threatened staffers who could release potentially damaging outtakes of the show.” A source told BuzzFeed that Burnett “is pro-Trump and has made clear to his teams that he will sue anyone who leaks.”
I am not now and have never been a supporter of Donald Trump’s candidacy. I am NOT ‘Pro-Trump.’ Further, my wife and I reject the hatred, division and misogyny that has been a very unfortunate part of his campaign.
Burnett’s conduct after the campaign suggests he was being less than candid. In addition to keeping Trump on as a paid executive producer, Burnett is also reportedly helping Trump plan his inaugural festivities.
According to the New York Times, Burnett suggested “a parade up Fifth Avenue, a helicopter ride to Washington from New York that could hold the attention of millions of people expected to watch from around the world.”
The Times described Burnett as one of Trump’s two “oldest friends.”
Asked about the arrangement spokesperson Hope Hicks said that Trump had “a big stake in the show.” Trump has previously described himself holding 50 percent ownership.
Trump’s decision to maintain a paid position with Celebrity Apprenticereflects his overall disregard for conflicts of interest that could impact his presidency.
Trump is reportedly planning to maintain ownership over his far-flung business empire. That decision will make him the beneficiary of a stream of payments from foreign governments — something that is expressly prohibited by the Constitution.
Legal experts, including the Chief Ethics Counsels for Barack Obama and George W. Bush, told ThinkProgress last month that if Trump does not sell his businesses he will violate the Constitution on his first day in office.
Trump’s pledge to maintain ownership but relinquish “control” does nothing to resolved the legal and ethical issues, the experts said.