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LONDON — The anti-corruption group Transparency International says it is concerned that allegations of conflicts of interest and nepotism in the Trump administration may hurt international perceptions about America’s ability to continue serving as a champion of anti-corruption efforts around the world.
After its annual report on corruption perceptions, the Berlin-based group minces no words in laying out what it sees as troubling signs in the new U.S. administration.
“The concerns about the U.S. are the concentration of power, the ideas around conflicts of interest being unmanaged, cronyism, nepotism and the muzzling of the press so these are the conditions that we would look out for in the future as to where a country might decline in the rankings,” said Robert Barrington, Transparency International’s director for Britain.
President Donald Trump was elected partly on promises to “drain the swamp,” take power away from Washington cronies and return it to the American people.
Choices draw scrutiny
But Trump’s decision to name his son-in-law as a senior White House adviser, and conflict-of-interest allegations against him and his appointees have drawn the scrutiny of the U.S. media.
Transparency International says that could hurt the United States’ image as an anti-corruption leader.
“It has played a very important role and a very successful role, but it can only do that if it has the moral authority to tell others to live by its own standards and if its own standards decline, that will be a problem,” Barrington told VOA.
“There are no actual signs of corruption,” he said. “It’s very early in the day, so we’re looking at warning signs for the future.”
Key Cabinet nominees who have drawn scrutiny include Rex Tillerson, Trump’s pick for secretary of state who was formerly head of the oil giant ExxonMobil.
“Rex Tillerson I think has done a good job of divesting himself immediately of his Exxon stock, sort of reducing conflict of interest. The Office of Government Ethics, which advises the president and presidential appointees on these issues, gave him a clean bill of health relatively quickly,” said Jacob Parakilas, a U.S. policy analyst at Chatham House.
“Other candidates still have some questions over their heads,” Parakilas said.