Trump to step away from business to avoid conflict of interest
Donald Trump has announced that he will be stepping away from his business interests “in total” in order to avoid a conflict of interest once he enters the White House.
The president-elect, who has been criticised by lawyers and counselors for refusing to give up ownership of his business empire, said in a series of tweets on Wednesday morning that he would hold a press conference two weeks from now to discuss the plan, but provided little detail.
“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!” the president-elect wrote.
“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.”
He added: “Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The presidency is a far more important task!”
The 70-year-old property tycoon is estimated to be worth billions of dollars. Trump is a recognised brand name around the world. The Trump Organization owns hotels and golf resorts and businesses including a winery and modeling agency. The holdings are unprecedented for an incoming American president.
Scores of international politicians and business partners flocked to Trump Tower in Manhattan after Trump’s election, to raise questions about how Trump could fairly work with foreign leaders who might try and curry his favour through business.
Trump told the New York Times last week that his brand “is certainly a hotter brand than it was before”, and asserted: “I know that from the standpoint, the law is totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”
He added: “In theory, I could run my business perfectly, and then run the country perfectly. And there’s never been a case like this where somebody’s had, like, if you look at other people of wealth, they didn’t have this kind of asset and this kind of wealth, frankly. It’s just a different thing.”
While it is true that some rules on conflict of interest do not apply to the president, Trump will be bound by bribery laws, disclosure requirements and a section of the US constitution known as the “emoluments clause” that bans elected officials from taking gifts from foreign governments.
Government ethics watchdogs expressed scepticism about his latest gesture. Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said: “What he does not seem to realize, or does not want to admit, is that the conflicts arise from his ownership of the Trump Organisation.”
Trump has previously said that he would leave his business operations to his three eldest children, Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka, though whether he plans to continue with that idea was not clear from his tweets on Wednesday.