Trump Unveils 'Conflicts Of Interest' Solution: No Divestment, Hands Business Over To Sons And "Ethics Officer"

Earlier today, in what turned out to be at times a very contentious press conference, Trump and his attorney laid out the details behind plans to place his business interests into a trust to be run by his two adult sons during his presidency.  Even though he opened by noting that, by law, he could very well ignore the criticism of the media and "run my business and run government at the same time" he concluded by noting that he just doesn't "like the way that looks."  Per Bloomberg:

“I could actually run my business and run government at the same time,” Trump said at a press conference Wednesday, adding that he recently turned down an offer of $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai. “I don’t like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to.”


"Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very amazing man, a great developer from the Middle East,” Trump said Wednesday, referring to the company Damac Properties Dubai Co PJSC. “I turned it down.”


Niall McLoughlin, a spokesman for Damac, confirmed Trump’s account. “Damac confirms that discussions took place but, as stated, they were declined,” he said by phone from Dubai. “These were proposals for different property deals.”

As laid out by Trump's attorney, Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, his roughly 500 business entities will be placed into a trust to be run by Eric, Don Jr. and Trump's current CFO Allen Weisselberg who will make decision regarding day-to-day operations without consulting the President.  Moreover, the trusts strictly forbid entering into new international business arrangements while new domestic arrangements will have to be approved by an "independent ethics officer" who has yet to be named.

Trump’s businesses, which include more than 500 companies with $3.6 billion in assets and ties to more than 20 countries, will be placed into a trust. The trust will be overseen by an independent ethics officer and managed by Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who will make decisions without consulting the president. The Trump Organization will terminate all pending partnerships, and won’t enter into new international business arrangements, such as licensing deals for new hotels, while Trump remains in the White House.


Existing Trump businesses, which include hotels and golf courses, will continue to operate and enter into new agreements, such as hosting weddings, parties and other events. Those will be reviewed by the ethics officer to ensure they are conducted at arms’ length. Trump’s debts will be paid down, according to their schedules.


“President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company that he built,” Dillon said.


While Dillion disagreed with suggestions that foreign dignitaries staying at Trump hotels in the U.S. is a violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution, she noted that, out of an abundance of caution, Trump will donate all profits from foreign payments at his hotels to the U.S. Treasury.

His lawyers similarly believe that the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits gifts from foreign governments and heads of state, doesn’t apply to fair value exchanges between businesses.


Several legal experts have disagreed, arguing that the clause applies to the president and to Trump’s foreign holdings, which include a partnership with the U.S. envoy in the Philippines, tenancy in Trump Tower of the state-owned Industrial & Commercial Bank of China, and overseas development projects requiring government approvals. Former top ethics officials to Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have said Trump will be in violation of the clause as soon as he takes the oath of office.


And, since CNN and MSNBC will undoubtedly object to the proposed trust arrangement, Dillon offered a couple of the many reasons that alternative solutions such as a blind trust or outright sale of Trump's businesses are not feasible options.


But, of course, it didn't take long for legal experts, like Richard Painter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, to blast the plan, saying “If he owns it, he has conflicts of interest.”

Finally, in fitting form, Trump ended the press conference with his signature line saying that if he returns to the business in 8 years to find that his sons have done a bad job then he'll simply tell them: "You're Fired."