Trump announces he will leave business “in total” — leaving open how he will avoid conflicts of interest – Washington Post
President-elect Donald J. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he would soon leave his “great business in total” to focus on the presidency, a response to growing worries over the businessman-in-chief’s conflicts of interest around the globe.
The announcement marks a turn from Trump’s months-long refusal to distance himself from his private business while holding the highest public office.
But it remained unclear whether the new arrangement would include a full sale of Trump’s stake or, as he has offered before, a ceding of company management to his children, which ethics advisors have said would not resolve worries that the business could still influence his decisions in the Oval Office.
“I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!” Trump tweeted.
“While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!”
Presidents are not bound by the strict conflict-of-interest laws governing most U.S. elected officials. But most modern presidents have agreed to sell or sequester their assets in a “blind trust,” led by an independent manager with supreme control, in order to keep past business deals, investments and relationships from influencing their White House term.
Trump spokespeople did not immediately return request for more details on the move. But Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said the move did not appear to offer enough of a division to keep entanglement worries at bay.
“That’s business operations, not ownership. The problem is, we need to resolve the conflicts of interest that arise from his ownership. And we’re hearing nothing about how that’s getting resolved,” Painter said.
“Even if he does not operate the businesses, you’re going to have lots of people working for the business running around the world trying to cut deals,” Painter added. “And it’s critical that none of those people discuss U.S. business in a way that could be interpreted, or misinterpreted, of offering quid pro quo … or soliciting a bribe on the part of the president.”
The weeks since Trump’s electoral victory have been marked by a series of entanglements between his private ventures and public ambitions.
Trump welcomed a group of Indian business executives to meet with him and his family at Trump Tower, where talk turned to the potential for new real-estate deals. Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, who will likely play a key part in running the company, met with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe during Trump’s first meeting as president-elect with a foreign head of state.
His company, the Trump Organization, has over the years sealed lucrative real-estate and branding deals for business in at least 18 countries and territories across the world, including in places where the U.S. has sensitive diplomatic ties, including Turkey, Azerbaijan and India.
Trump’s company is also pitching foreign diplomats on his new luxury hotel in Washington as a place to book rooms and hold meetings. But such entreaties eventually could run afoul of an “emoluments” clause in the U.S. Constitution that bars the president from accepting gifts from foreign leaders — even if he is not actively running the company.
Buffeted by entanglement worries, Trump has largely dug in, arguing “the law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest” last week in an interview with the New York Times.
“In theory I could run my business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly,” Trump said. “But I would like to do something. I would like to try and formalize something, because I don’t care about my business.”
Peter Schweizer, a conservative author who raised alarms in the book “Clinton Cash” about Hillary Clinton’s possible conflicts of interest due to donations to her husband’s foundation, said Trump will face an equally skeptical public, not just about his entanglements but those of his children as well.