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Trump says he is leaving the business world and will hold a press conference on Dec. 15 to discuss his separation from his business interests. He used Twitter to break the news.
USA TODAY

WASHINGTON — While announcing key members of his economic team, Donald Trump said Wednesday he will separate himself from his global business interests while serving as president, though he will wait a couple of weeks before providing details.

“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 said during an early morning tweet storm.

Trump has suggested that his children would run his business empire in his absence, though ethics lawyers said he must take additional steps in order to comply with conflict of interest laws.

“He must also exit the ownership of his businesses through using a blind trust or equivalent,” said a joint statement from 

Norman Eisen and Richard W. Painter. who served as chief White House ethics lawyers for presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

“Otherwise,” they said, “he will have a personal financial interest in his businesses that will sometimes conflict with the public interest, and constantly raise questions.”

During his tweet storm, Trump said he is not “mandated” to dis-invest. “I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.” They range from hotels to office towers to golf resorts across the world.

The New York real estate mogul did not provide details about how his new business arrangement might work, and whether his children might operate his holdings moving forward. He tweeted that “legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!”

Trump made the announcement the same day he named key members of his economic team, tapping hedge fund manager and campaign aide Steve Mnuchin as secretary of the Treasury and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross as secretary of Commerce.

In an interview with CNBC, Mnuchin said his priority is cutting taxes, particularly corporate taxes.

“By cutting corporate taxes, we’re going to create huge economic growth and we’ll have huge personal income,” Mnuchin said.

Mnuchin, 53, a former Goldman Sachs executive, worked this year as Trump’s national campaign finance chairman. In announcing his selection, Trump described Mnuchin as “a world-class financier, banker and businessman” who “has played a key role in developing our plan to build a dynamic, booming economy that will create millions of jobs.”

If confirmed by the Senate, the Treasury secretary nominee would shepherd economic plans that include a reduction in government regulations and stepped-up infrastructure projects.

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Donald Trump’s pick for Commerce secretary is billionaire businessman Wilbur Ross. Here is what we know about the ‘King of Bankruptcy.’
USA TODAY NETWORK

Ross, the nominee for Commerce secretary, co-authored an infrastructure plan that Trump aides are studying.

In announcing the appointment of Ross, Trump said the investor known for buying and re-organizing businesses is “a champion of American manufacturing and knows how to help companies succeed. Most importantly, he is one of the greatest negotiators I have ever met, and that comes from me, the author of The Art of the Deal.”

Trump also said that Ross “knows that cutting taxes for working families, reducing burdensome government regulations and unleashing America’s energy resources will strengthen our economy at a time when our country needs to see significant growth.”

Also discussing his appointment on CNBC, Ross said the Trump administration will pursue bilateral trade agreements with individual countries, as opposed to regional pacts like the now-stalled Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Trump also announce selection of a former critic to be deputy commerce secretary: Todd Ricketts, a co-owner of the Chicago Cubs and member of a Republican political family that financed attack ads on Trump during the Republican primaries.

The economy will also be front and center as Trump plans his first public appearance since the election more than three weeks ago: A trip to Indiana to celebrate Carrier’s decision to keep 1,000 manufacturing jobs at its air conditioning plant in the state rather than move them to Mexico.

Carrier’s decision came after negotiations with Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, that included new tax breaks for the company.

Trump also plans to kick off a “thank you” tour of states that provided his margin of victory in the Electoral College, a series of rallies set to begin Thursday in Cincinnati.

The economic appointments were overshadowed by Trump’s announcement about his business empire.

In recent weeks, congressional Democrats and government analysts have questioned how Trump could conduct the presidency without violating conflict of interest guidelines involving his various global businesses.

Trump has said that he does not believe presidents are bound by conflict of interests laws. “The law is totally on my side,” he told The New York Times, “meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.

Ethics watchdogs have urged Trump to abandon any plans to let his children run his real estate empire, and instead put all of his assets into a blind trust. They noted his adult children — Donald, Jr., Eric, and Ivanka — have participated in the transition, and that Ivanka apparently attended a meeting between the president-elect and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

Eisen, a visiting fellow at Brookings, and Painter, a professor at  the University of Minnesota Law School, said if Trump puts his children in charge, he must also set up an “ethics firewall” to make sure that “neither he nor anybody else in his administration is talking to his kids about business.”

The ethics lawyers for Democratic and Republican White Houses said Trump “should start by having the children step away from the transition, not to mention from participating in his own meetings with foreign leaders.”

Congressional Democrats have made clear they will focus on Trump’s business ties.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., plans to ask the Senate to pass a resolution that would require Trump to hand over control of his businesses.

“The American public has a right to know that the President of the United States is acting in their best interest, and not because he or she has received some benefit or gift from a foreign government like Russia or China or any other foreign entity,” Cardin said.

In the U.S. House, 16 Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee demanded hearings “to examine the federal conflicts-of-interest and ethics provisions that may apply to the President of the United States.”