President-elect Donald Trump said during a press conference on Wednesday that he is not required by law to separate himself from his organization, telling reporters that “I can run my business and the country at the same time.”
Trump noted that, as president, conflict-of-interest laws don’t apply to him. But one of his lawyers, speaking at the press conference, confirmed that Trump will be separating himself from his global business empire by transferring all assets into a trust and putting his two sons in charge.
“All of Mr. Trump’s investments in the Trump organization have been, or will be, conveyed to a trust prior to January 20,” or Inauguration Day, Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, told reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan.
The trust — set up with help from Fred Fielding, a former White House counsel to Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush — will only hold liquid assets such as cash and business operating assets.
Per the trust agreement, Trump will relinquish leadership and management of the organization to his sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, as well as to a longtime Trump Organization executive. Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, will also have no further involvement with, or management authority over, the Trump Organization.
Ivanka Trump is married to Jared Kushner, who Trump appointed to a senior advisory role in the White House earlier this week.
Trump’s lawyer said during Wednesday’s press conference that an ethics adviser and compliance expert will be appointed to his organization’s management team to minimize potential conflicts of interest when Trump takes office on January 20.
“The written approval of the ethics adviser will be required for new deals, actions and transactions that could potentially raise ethics or conflict of interests concerns,” Dillon said.
The organization will also not enter into any new deals while Trump is president, she noted, and his access to information about his businesses will be sharply limited. The moratorium on new deals does not apply to contracts that are entered into by the Trump Organization and its affiliates in the ordinary course of business.
Remaining debt will stay in place and will be dealt with during the ordinary course of business, Dillon said.
Trump operates a variety of golf resorts and hotels around the world, many of which are visited by foreign government officials and diplomats. Dillon confirmed in Wednesday’s press conference that all profits generated at Trump’s hotels by foreign governments will be donated to the US Treasury.
Trump sold all his stocks in his organization last year, but many ethics experts had urged Trump him to completely divest or set up a blind trust for his assets. Dillon said Trump opted against these steps because it was not a realistic possibility.
Those steps would “only exacerbate conflicts of interests,” Dillon said. “Selling his brand means he would be entitled to royalties from it, and whatever price was paid for it would be subject to criticism and scrutiny” over whether it was an attempt to curry favor with the president.
“The president-elect should not be expected to destroy the company he built,” Dillon said.