POLITICS
12/12/2016 07:45 pm ET Updated Dec 12, 2016

Donald Trump Delays Plans To Resolve His Conflicts Of Interest

A Trump adviser attributed the holdup to “how convoluted and complex many of these business holdings are.”

WASHINGTON ― President-elect Donald Trump will not hold a press conference on Thursday to announce plans for his billion-dollar real estate and licensing business, as he had promised.

Trump said on Nov. 30 that he would hold “a major news conference in New York City” to explain how he’d leave his Trump Organization “in total” when he takes office on Jan. 20. Trump will postpone the announcement until next month, an adviser said Monday night, after the Electoral College votes Dec. 19 on Trump’s election. Bloomberg reported the announcement may come before Trump’s inauguration.

Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway attributed the delay to “how convoluted and complex many of these business holdings are.”

“The press announcement has been delayed until January, as the Trump Organization experts and other counsel are trying to decide which is the best organizing structure for the Trump Organization going forward,” Conway told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “As you know, it’s a very unconventional situation.” She said Trump still intends to give control of his businesses to his children “and other corporate officers whom he trusts.”

The Trump Organization has real estate holdings in the United States, golf courses in foreign countries, licensing deals to put the Trump name on buildings in at least 10 countries, and produces Trump-branded products, almost exclusively outside the U.S.

During the presidential campaign, Trump said he would hand off control of his company to his three adult children, Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric. The New York Times reported on Dec. 7 that Trump was still pursuing this plan, except that Ivanka Trump may leave the company to move to Washington for an unspecified position in the White House.

None of these moves would alleviate Trump’s glaring conflicts of interest. He has not promised to divest from his company ― as the Office of Government Ethics has urged him to do in a bizarre series of tweets. He would still retain a stake in his business if he puts his children in charge.

Trump has already mixed the operations of government and his business by appointing his children to the executive committee of his presidential transition. Trump’s conflict will remain if his children continue to operate the business, because he would presumably want them to increase his wealth and his ability to leave them a great inheritance.

During the transition period, Trump has continued to meet with his foreign business partners, promote his partners to world leaders, and urge cronies to lobby foreign governments to benefit his business. On Sunday, Trump told Fox News’ Chris Wallace he wasn’t making any deals for his company now.

“I am turning down billions of dollars of deals,” Trump said. “I turned down seven deals with one big player, great player, last week because I thought it could be perceived as a conflict of interest.” 

Trump’s conflicts include his licensing deals with foreign businessmen that rely on the approval of foreign governments, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, where foreign governments were encouraged to book rooms to curry favor with the new regime, and hundreds of millions he owes to Deutsche Bank.

Trump could, theoretically, continue to run his business while sitting in the Oval Office. The conflict of interest laws that apply to executive branch appointees and employees do not apply to the president or the vice president. “The law’s totally on my side, the president can’t have a conflict of interest,” Trump has said.

The president, however, cannot receive payment from foreign governments or foreign government-owned corporations. The Constitution’s Emoluments Clause states that “no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”

Ethics and constitutional experts from both parties have said Trump’s debt to the government-owned Bank of China, or payments by foreign governments to book his hotel, could be interpreted as violating the Constitution.

Previous presidents, particularly those since the passage of ethics laws in the 1960s and 1970s, have acted as though conflict-of-interest laws do apply to them, even if they do not. President Jimmy Carter had an independent trustee manage his peanut farm during his four years in Washington. More recent presidents have put their holdings in real blind trusts operated by an independent manager, or have let others handle their investments for them.

This article has been updated to include Conway’s comments.

Marina Fang contributed reporting.

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