Trump to leave business to fo­cus on run­ning coun­try Trea­sury chief named

Kuwait Times - - FRONT PAGE -

NEW YORK:

US Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump yes­ter­day tried to sti­fle con­cerns that his business em­pire rep­re­sents a con­flict of in­ter­est, promis­ing to put it aside as he packed his cab­i­net ros­ter with fel­low bil­lion­aires. In one of his trade­mark predawn tweet­storms, the Man­hat­tan real es­tate mogul said that next month, he will re­veal a plan to put aside his “great business in to­tal in or­der to fully fo­cus on run­ning the coun­try”.

The 70-year-old ty­coon did not say who would take over his multi-bil­lion dol­lar global prop­erty and lux­ury brand­ing in­ter­ests, but said his chil­dren would be present at a De­cem­ber 15 news con­fer­ence. He has pre­vi­ously said his daugh­ter Ivanka and sons Eric and Don Jr could take dayto-day charge of the business while he is pres­i­dent, but it is not clear what he would do with his per­sonal stake. “While I am not man­dated to do this un­der the law, I feel it is vis­ually im­por­tant, as pres­i­dent, to in no way have a con­flict of in­ter­est with my var­i­ous busi­nesses,” he tweeted.

US law does not re­quire Trump to give up his business port­fo­lio, al­though the Con­sti­tu­tion states that no fed­eral of­fi­cial can re­ceive a gift or “emol­u­ment” from a for­eign gov­ern­ment. Some pre­vi­ous pres­i­dents have placed in­vest­ments in a blind trust, but they were not re­quired to do so. Crit­ics ar­gue it would be an un­prece­dented eth­i­cal con­flict for Trump to main­tain an in­ter­est in prop­er­ties span­ning the globe that rely in part on good­will from for­eign gov­ern­ments and reg­u­la­tors.

And, even on home soil, his com­pany has at­tracted crit­i­cism for mar­ket­ing the new Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel in Wash­ing­ton - just a few blocks from the White House - to for­eign diplo­mats. But his new chief of staff , Reince Priebus, in­sisted there were “smart ethics lawyers” work­ing on a “plan”.

Trump has ad­mit­ted the ho­tel’s brand is prob­a­bly “hot­ter” now that he is the pres­i­dent, but has vaguely promised to “phase out” his hands-on, check-sign­ing role in Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion business.

Mean­while, the Repub­li­can is build­ing the cab­i­net team that will join him in the cap­i­tal after his Jan 20 in­au­gu­ra­tion with a mis­sion to “drain the swamp” of Wash­ing­ton cor­rup­tion. So far, aside from for­mer gen­er­als side­lined by Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s ad­min­is­tra­tion, Trump has fo­cused on re­cruit­ing su­per-rich con­ser­va­tive fig­ures from Wall Street and pri­vate business. On Tues­day, Trump dined on frog legs, scal­lops and sir­loin at a Miche­lin-starred restau­rant with Mitt Rom­ney, for­mer Mas­sachusetts gov­er­nor and pri­vate eq­uity baron.

Rom­ney’s own failed 2012 cam­paign for the pres­i­dency foundered in part be­cause Democrats tagged him as a mem­ber of an aloof, su­per-rich elite, but Trump is con­sid­er­ing him as a pos­si­ble sec­re­tary of state. The lat­est two fig­ures Trump has nom­i­nated for se­nior roles - Wall Street vet­eran Steven Mnuchin and stressed as­set in­vestor Wil­bur Ross - are both bil­lion­aires and even richer than Rom­ney.

Trump’s de­feated Demo­cratic op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton, was at­tacked dur­ing the cam­paign for ac­cept­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands of dol­lars for giv­ing pri­vate speeches to Gold­man Sachs bankers. But Trump, hav­ing al­ready named for­mer Gold­man banker Steve Ban­non as his chief strate­gist, this week nom­i­nated an­other, Mnuchin, for the key role of Trea­sury sec­re­tary. Mnuchin was a part­ner in Gold­man Sachs be­fore he launched an in­vest­ment fund backed by Demo­cratic Party sup­porter Ge­orge Soros. He fi­nanced Hol­ly­wood block­busters like “Avatar” and “Sui­cide Squad”.

Along­side Mnuchin, Trump picked Ross, best known for in­vest­ing in fail­ing steel and coal firms and turn­ing them into saleable in­vest­ments, as com­merce sec­re­tary. Ap­pear­ing with Ross on CNBC, 53-year-old Mnuchin said: “We’re thrilled to be here and we’re thrilled to work for the pres­i­dent-elect and hon­ored to have th­ese po­si­tions.”

Mnuchin’s ap­point­ment is widely seen as a re­ward for tak­ing Trump’s side at a time when many of the Repub­li­can Party’s ma­jor donors, such as the bil­lion­aire Koch broth­ers, had shunned him. Trump’s picks are the first ma­jor nom­i­na­tions to his eco­nomic pol­icy team. The pres­i­dent-elect has vowed to cut cor­po­rate taxes and to en­cour­age multi­na­tional com­pa­nies to repa­tri­ate their earn­ings. He plans to scrap the 2010 Dodd-Frank fi­nan­cial re­forms, en­acted to pro­tect con­sumers and the fi­nan­cial sys­tem from Wall Street ex­cesses that some ar­gue caused the fi­nan­cial crisis.

Ross has ad­vo­cated a steep tar­iff on Chi­nese steel im­ports to pre­vent what Trump has al­leged is the dump­ing of cheap com­modi­ties on the US mar­ket. To­day, Trump was sched­uled to em­bark on a vic­tory tour of sorts, lead­ing an evening rally with his run­ning mate Mike Pence in Cincin­nati, Ohio. The pair are also to ap­pear ear­lier in the day at the In­di­anapo­lis plant of an air con­di­tion­ing firm that an­nounced yes­ter­day it would main­tain 1,000 jobs in the Rust Belt - a pledge Trump had made dur­ing the cam­paign. The tran­si­tion team has dubbed it a “thank you tour”. — AFP

NEW YORK: For­mer Gold­man Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin, US Pres­i­den­t­Elect Don­ald Trump’s nom­i­nee for Trea­sury Sec­re­tary, speaks with re­porters in the lobby of Trump Tower yes­ter­day. — AP

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