The word “potential” keeps popping up in articles covering Donald Trump’s many conflicts of interest. This vague sense of malfeasance in potentia gives a false impression of distance between the incoming president and his vast web of conflicts, but do not be fooled. All conflicts of interest are “potential” conflicts of interest. The whole concept is tied to appearances and the difficulty in ascertaining honest (and dishonest) motives.
For what it’s worth, when a conflict is no longer “potential,” when the subject is definitively shown to have misrepresented one interest in favor of another, it can usually be referred to more accurately as a crime: fraud.
Update (Jan 27): And sure enough, here is why this type of situation is problematic.