Trump prom­ises to di­vorce him­self from busi­ness empire.

Watch­dogs want zero own­er­ship

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump said Wed­nes­day that he will di­vorce him­self “in to­tal” from his busi­ness empire, promis­ing more de­tails in the next few weeks — but still faces in­tense crit­i­cism from ethics watch­dogs who in­sist he needs to give up all own­er­ship stakes.

In a series of early morn­ing tweets, Mr. Trump said he plans to hold a Dec. 15 press con­fer­ence to lay out how he will dis­tance him­self from his busi­ness in­ter­ests and fo­cus on the pres­i­dency.

“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, say­ing le­gal doc­u­ments are be­ing drafted to take him “com­pletely out of busi­ness op­er­a­tions.”

Mr. Trump’s team said de­tails are still be­ing ironed out.

But top ethics lawyers from other ad­min­is­tra­tions said just re­mov­ing him­self from an op­er­a­tional role won’t be enough.

“In or­der to avoid con­flicts, he must also exit the own­er­ship of his busi­nesses through us­ing a blind trust or equiv­a­lent,” Nor­man Eisen and Richard Pain­ter, who worked for Pres­i­dents Obama and Ge­orge W. Bush, re­spec­tively, said in a joint state­ment. “Oth­er­wise, he will have a per­sonal fi­nan­cial in­ter­est in his busi­nesses that will some­times con­flict with the pub­lic in­ter­est and con­stantly raise ques­tions.”

Set­ting up a blind trust, which is com­mon among politi­cians with sig­nif­i­cant stock or busi­ness in­ter­ests, would the­o­ret­i­cally re­move Mr. Trump en­tirely from any real knowl­edge or in­put into Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion deal­ings.

Con­gres­sional Democrats are also press­ing their Repub­li­can coun­ter­parts to in­ves­ti­gate Mr. Trump’s vast fi­nan­cial ar­range­ments for po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­est, say­ing the ex­tent to which Mr. Trump’s adult chil­dren could be in­volved in the busi­ness also raises ques­tions.

“The Amer­i­can peo­ple should never have to ques­tion whether their pres­i­dent is work­ing on their be­half or rather on be­half of his own per­sonal in­ter­ests,” Demo­cratic mem­bers of the House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee wrote Wed­nes­day in a let­ter to Chair­man Bob Good­latte, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can.

Mr. Trump has long faced ques­tions over how he would square run­ning his vast real es­tate and golf course empire while serv­ing as pres­i­dent. Some crit­ics pre­dicted he wouldn’t even run for of­fice be­cause he would have to dis­close a great deal of in­for­ma­tion about his fi­nances and busi­ness ven­tures, sev­eral of which have gone through bank­ruptcy over the years.

Mr. Trump’s team has pegged his net worth at about $10 bil­lion, though other an­a­lysts have put it at far less.

Reince Priebus, the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee chair­man and in­com­ing White House chief of staff, ac­knowl­edged Wed­nes­day that the sit­u­a­tion with Mr. Trump’s empire isn’t clear-cut but said the Amer­i­can peo­ple had ac­cepted and even cel­e­brated the pres­i­dent-elect’s busi­ness record.

“So now we’re work­ing on mak­ing sure that all 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,” Mr. Priebus said on MSNBC’s “Morn­ing Joe.”

In one im­me­di­ate ex­am­ple of what Mr. Trump is fac­ing, he might end up vi­o­lat­ing the lease on his lat­est crown jewel, the Trump In­ter­na­tional Ho­tel built out of the Old Post Of­fice Build­ing in the na­tion’s cap­i­tal, sim­ply by be­ing sworn into of­fice in Jan­uary.

Govern­ment Ex­ec­u­tive re­ported this week that the lease, which runs through the fed­eral govern­ment’s Gen­eral Ser­vices Ad­min­is­tra­tion, for­bids elected govern­ment of­fi­cials from be­ing party to it in or­der to avoid con­flict of in­ter­est is­sues. That would ap­ply to Mr. Trump once he of­fi­cially en­ters the White House.

Mr. Trump’s tran­si­tion team said this week that they were look­ing into the mat­ter, and a GSA spokesman said the agency plans to co­or­di­nate with the pres­i­den­t­elect’s team to ad­dress any is­sues tied to the prop­erty.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Pres­i­dent-elect Don­ald Trump is giv­ing ethics at­tor­neys and good-govern­ment groups top­ics for de­bate on how to nav­i­gate his po­si­tion with busi­ness ties.

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