Photo via Michael Vadon/Flickr (CC-BY)
President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced plans to completely cut ties with his own businesses to avoid conflicts of interest as president.
Details of Trump's full plan will be announced at a Dec. 15 press conference alongside his children, the president-elect said in a series of tweets.
Throughout his campaign, Trump vowed to hand his business dealings over to his family in the event of his election. This move falls short of efforts by previous presidents, who placed their assets in blind trusts—which are run by an independent party, not a family member—or held highly diversified investments in publicly traded companies, to avoid conflicts of interest.
Presidents and vice presidents are exempt from laws that prevent other high-level government officials from having business relationships that would conflict with their duties to the U.S. government. However, Trump's failure to distance himself from his business empire would create an unprecedented conflict of interest for the president, according to Richard Painter, chief ethics attorney for former President George W. Bush, and Norman Eisen, President Barack Obama's former chief ethics lawyer.
“The president-elect and his spokespeople have ... suggested that he will allow his children to guide his enterprises while he retains all or most of the ownership interest. This arrangement has two major flaws,” Painter and Eisen wrote in an op-ed for the Washington Post. “First, Trump will know what is in the trust. (He cannot put Trump Tower in a blind trust and then forget that he owns it.) Second, he knows the people who will be managing the assets; he is their father. This is the opposite of a blind trust. It is a demand that the American people blindly trust Trump and his family.”
Speaking with MSNBC's Morning Joe on Wednesday, Trump's incoming chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said the American people understood that Trump has vast business relationships when they elected him president.
“Here's the thing. He was elected by the American people with all of this knowledge in mind. I mean, there's nothing to be ashamed of,” Priebus said. “There’s nothing different today than there was three weeks ago. I mean, people in this country knew and accepted and celebrated this business that Donald Trump has built throughout his entire life. So now we're working on making sure that all of those conflicts are taken care of and doing the best job we can given the fact that the laws actually are very vague and don't contemplate this scenario but we're doing the best we can for the American people.”
It remains unclear, for now, what steps Trump will take to detach from his businesses.