Trump team refuses to completely drop business ties: ‘The president-elect should not be expected to destroy the company he built’

President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday made it clear he would not fully divest himself from his vast business empire, saying during a press conference that he was not required by law to separate himself from his organization but outlining a plan to turn over his business operations to a trust run by his two adult sons and a longtime business associate.

Trump suggested that conflict-of-interest laws would not apply to him as president. But one of his lawyers, speaking at the press conference, confirmed that Trump would nevertheless be distancing 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, the 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 hold only liquid assets such as cash and business operating assets.

Per the trust agreement, Trump will relinquish leadership and management of his company 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, Dillon said.

Ivanka Trump is married to Jared Kushner, whom Trump appointed to a senior advisory role in the White House earlier this week.

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Trump with, from left, his sons Eric and Donald Jr. and his daughter Ivanka.
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REUTERS/Gary Cameron

Dillon said an ethics adviser and compliance expert would be appointed to the company’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.

She also said that the organization would not enter into any new deals outside the US while Trump is president and that his access to information about his businesses would 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, Dillon said.

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 said in Wednesday’s press conference that all profits generated at Trump’s hotels by foreign governments would be donated to the US Treasury.

Trump has said he sold all his stocks in his organization last year, but many ethics experts had urged him to fully divest himself from or set up a blind trust for his assets. Dillon said Trump opted against these steps because they were not realistic.

Those steps would “only exacerbate conflicts of interests,” Dillon said, adding, “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 inflated to curry favor with the president.

“The president-elect should not be expected to destroy the company he built,” Dillon said.