Trump says won’t divest from his business while president

U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

January 11, 2017

By Andy Sullivan, Emily Stephenson and Steve Holland

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday he would maintain ownership of his global business empire but hand off control to his two oldest sons while president, an arrangement that watchdogs said would not prevent conflicts of interest in the White House.

Trump told a news conference he would resign from all positions overseeing his hotels, golf courses and hundreds of other businesses and move his assets into a trust to help ensure that he will not consciously take actions as president that would benefit him personally.

Trump, a Republican, is under pressure to distance himself from his businesses before he moves into the White House on Jan. 20. Unlike other U.S. government officials, the president is not required by law to steer clear of conflicts of interest.

“I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to,” Trump said.

Ethics experts said the arrangement did not go far enough.

“Mr. Trump’s ill-advised course will precipitate scandal and corruption,” said Norman Eisen, a former White House ethics adviser under Democratic President Barack Obama.

Walter Shaub, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, said on Wednesday in a speech at a Washington think tank that his office recommends Trump “divest his conflicting assets” to avoid conflicts.

Trump appears to be still involved with his business while preparing to take office, saying he had turned down a $2 billion development deal in Dubai he had been offered over the weekend.

The company that made the proposal, DAMAC, confirmed the discussions had taken place.

The Trump Organization will not enter into any new overseas deals while Trump is president and will only undertake domestic projects after a company ethics adviser has approved them, said Trump adviser Sheri Dillon. Details of how the ethics adviser would operate, as well as several other aspects of the arrangements, were not immediately clear.

Trump will only know of those deals if he hears about them through the news media, said Dillon, a lawyer at Morgan Lewis who focuses on tax and ethics.

Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, will have no further involvement in managing the organization or her own clothing brand. Ivanka Trump said on her Facebook page that she would take time off to settle her family into their new home in Washington. The president-elect has named her husband, Jared Kushner, to a senior advisory role in the White House.

Since Trump sold all his stocks last year, the Trump trust will hold only business assets and liquid assets such as cash, Dillon said.

A financial disclosure document he filed in May also showed loans from lenders such as Deutsche Bank <DBKGn.DE> and Ladder Capital <LADR.K>. Trump will not have to file a new disclosure form until 2018.

Many other ethics experts, including the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, have urged Trump to completely divest or set up a blind trust for his assets. In a blind trust, the owner does now know what the holdings are or how the assets are managed. Trump’s oldest sons, Eric and Donald Jr., will be running his business, so the arrangement does not meet that standard.

Dillon said that was not a realistic possibility for a family-owned company and any sudden divestment would hurt Trump financially. Unlike liquid assets like stocks and investment funds, much of Trump’s wealth comes from office towers and other real estate that cannot be sold easily, as well as licensing deals that could be difficult to unwind.

Stripped of the Trump name, many of these assets would lose much of their value, Dillon said.

“President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built,” she said.

Dillon dismissed concerns that Trump could violate an anti-bribery provision in the U.S. Constitution, known as the Emoluments Clause. That applies to gifts, but not business transactions like renting a hotel room, she said.

Nevertheless, profits generated at Trump’s hotels by foreign governments will be donated to the U.S. Treasury, she said.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Cornwell in Dubai; Editing by Anna Driver, Grant McCool and James Dalgleish)

  • Linnie

    You had a Secretary of State clearly profiting from her position & no report. Now, you want to claim a sale of a hotel room is a profit. News reporting is shameful.

    Eisen is a fool. So what if he has real estate loans, as long as they stay current, no conflict. Is Eisen the one saying that the profit from sale of a room is a gift? That whole line of thought is a non-starter.

    You failed to mention “blind trust”, which means Trump will not get reports on the status of his assets. His on-going knowledge would be general in nature, things you & I could know. There will be no ethics violations except fabricated by the media.

  • alvin swenson

    Where were these high and mighty ethic experts when Hillary was selling the state dept?

    • Randy Culbertson

      Such is CNN=Clinton News Network or more accurately the known Criminal Nazi White Supremist George Soros Network……….but you are correct to state no one dared bring up ethics against the known criminal traitor hitlery Clinton, and talk about ethics lets not forget that Obama promised on live television he would not pardon anyone whom was a hard drug user or was a dealer and so far his ethics are in question there look at the list of criminal drug dealers he has released and the criminal traitor he plans to pardon, a military discharged person whom actually sold government secrets of plans of military movements to our enemies………Talk about ethics look into profits that Obama made from companies he has investments in………..

  • tedlv

    Did the founders like George Washington sell their farms in order to hold office? No, and to do so would be foolish. They won’t always be in the political position.

  • Melanie

    Has any other president donated profits from his personal businesses to the US Treasury? Has this ever been done before?

    • Axel Westby

      Melanie, that was a bad move! The US Treasury is the IMF!

      • Melanie

        ??

      • Dave Chandler

        Impossible Missions Force IMF?

    • Randy Culbertson

      I am sure Mr Trump meant to say he was donating those funds to the US Treasury direct towards lowering the current debt which any American can do and that money can not be used by the US Treasury or Congress as it goes directly towards the Total Debt and not what Congress approves each year which has gotten out of hand already……I think it was a great political move as all it was is the profits that his overseas investments make that would be paid to him which wont be a large amount compared to what he makes total in the from investments here in the USA and by US IRS laws he can take that out as a deduction against profits made in the USA, that is a great business idea….