President-elect Donald Trump plans to relinquish management of his businesses, but he still intends to retain an ownership stake in his sprawling real-estate and branding empire.
Trump’s adult sons, Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump, will run the company, along with a Trump Organization executive. Trump will not make any corporate decisions during his time in the White House, his aides said.
Trump will put his business assets into a trust, and an ethics adviser will join the company’s management team. The adviser, who has not yet been named, will review and sign off on any new business deals that raise potential conflicts of interests, lawyer Sheri Dillon announced Wednesday. The company also will hire a chief compliance counsel to police potential conflicts.
She said the Trump Organization will not complete any new foreign deals, but will continue to pursue new domestic business during Trump's presidency.
Trump and his aides say they are establishing a clear dividing line between his presidency and the business and note that conflicts of interest laws that govern most executive branch employees do not apply to the president or vice president.
"I could actually run my business and run government at the same time," Trump said Wednesday during a news conference, his first since winning the presidency. "I don't like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to."
Trump said he recently rejected $2 billion worth of business deals in Dubai. "I turned it down," he said. "I didn't have to turn it down."
Trump’s action falls well short of recommendations by ethics experts, who have called on him to sell off his assets and put them in a blind trust, not controlled by him or his family members. Most recent presidents have used blind trusts. President Obama’s assets are in mutual funds and Treasury bonds.
The long-anticipated announcement about his business dealings came nine days before his Jan. 20 swearing-in.
His ownership of the hundreds of companies that make up the Trump Organization has raised the potential for conflicts of interests unprecedented for U.S. presidents. Trump has begun to walk away from some of his business interests in recent months, ending projects in countries such as Brazil and Georgia. He also has announced plans to shutter his foundation.
However, Trump’s companies still have global ties. In a series of tweets last year, Trump pledged the Trump Organization would engage in “no new deals” while he’s in office.
On Wednesday, Dillon said that prohibition would apply only to new agreements overseas while Trump is in the White House, and said the company will continue to enter into new contracts domestically. Those arrangements, she said, will be reviewed by the ethics adviser and outside experts.
Ethics watchdogs, however, have warned that Trump could run afoul of the “Emoluments Clause,” an anti-bribery provision of the Constitution that forbids the president from receiving profits or gain from foreign government.
Trump aides argue that the clause does not apply to “fair value exchanges,” such as a foreign government paying to stay at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. To avoid the appearance of any conflicts, Trump has decided to donate the profits from foreign payments at his hotels to the U.S. treasury, Dillon said.