President-elect Donald Trump announced late Monday night that he would hand over control of his businesses to his adult sons before his inauguration and vowed that the companies would make “no new deals” while he is in office.
In a pair of tweets sent after 11 p.m., Trump wrote: “Even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my businesses before January 20th so that I can focus full time on the Presidency. Two of my children, Don and Eric, plus executives, will manage them. No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office.”
Trump was earlier scheduled to hold a press conference on Thursday — his first since winning the election Nov. 8 — to announce his plans for his business, but his transition team announced Monday that the press conference will be rescheduled for next month.
Trump’s tweets gave no indication that he will give up his ownership stake in his global real estate and licensing empire, which experts have advocated as the only way to ensure Trump could not profit from the impact of his own policies.
The promise to forgo any new deals, however, was a step beyond Trump’s previous statements on the topic, when he merely indicated he would give up control of the business.
Trump’s tweets omitted reference to daughter Ivanka, who, like her brothers, currently works at the Trump Organization. However, Ivanka is expected to step away from the business to serve in an advisory capacity to her father; her husband Jared is a key and trusted aide.
Trump has been under significant pressure to step away from his various businesses since winning the election to avoid possible conflicts of interest. On Sunday, Trump repeated that he will hand over day-to-day management of the Trump Organization to his three older children, but he suggested he would not fully divest from the company.
“Essentially, I’m not going to have anything to do with the management,” Trump told “Fox News Sunday.” “When I ran, everybody knew that I was a very big owner of real estate all over the world. I mean, I’m not going to have anything to do with the management of the company. I’m not going to be doing deals at all.”
“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,” Trump tweeted Nov. 30, while announcing Thursday’s press conference. “Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!”
A spokesman for Trump said the delay is taking place so Trump can continue to focus on building his Cabinet. Trump is expected to announce the selection of ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson as his secretary of State on Tuesday.
“With so many iconic properties and successful entities, moving the announcement to January ensures the legal team has ample time to ensure the proper protocols are put in place so his sole focus will remain on the country and achieving his ambitious agenda,” Sean Spicer wrote in an email Monday evening.
Neither Spicer nor Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks gave a new date for the news conference when asked.
Trump’s assets and name recognition around the world create an unprecedented ethical maze as he prepares to enter the White House. As Trump often points out, presidents are not bound by the strict conflict-of-interest laws that govern most U.S. elected officials. Still, most modern presidents have chosen to sell or sequester their assets under independent management to prevent their private interests from influencing their actions.
“I’m not going to be doing deals at all. I don’t even know if that’s a conflict. I mean, I have the right to do it. You know, under the law, I have the right to do it. I just don’t want to do it,” Trump told Fox on Sunday.
The decision to delay the news conference was first reported by Bloomberg News.
So far, Trump’s transition has been rife with ethical questions, particularly when it comes to his dealings with world leaders. At least 111 Trump companies have done business in 18 countries and territories across South America, Asia and the Middle East, a Washington Post analysis of Trump’s financial filings shows, creating myriad potential conflicts.
For example, Trump took a break from transition work in November for a brief meeting with the developers of a Trump project in Pune, India. He acknowledged to the New York Times that he “might have” discouraged Nigel Farage, the leader of the UK Independence Party, from supporting offshore wind farms, which Trump believes mar the view from one of his coastal properties in Scotland. Trump has included his daughter Ivanka in his communications with world leaders, including a sit-down at Trump Tower on Nov. 17 with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Ivanka and her two brothers, Donald Jr. and Eric, hold senior leadership positions in the Trump Organization and also have official roles with the transition, a situation that has also raised concerns with former government ethics officers.
Trump says he has taken at least one step to protect himself from conflicts of interest: selling his stock portfolio in June.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate for me to be owning stocks when I’m making deals for this country that maybe will affect one company positively and one company negatively. So I just felt it was a conflict,” told NBC’s “Today” show last week.
The apparent transactions were not announced at the time, and a Trump spokesman did not provide documentation of the sales or additional detail when asked by The Post.
Trump held his last news conference on July 27 and used the event to call for the Russian government to hack Hillary Clinton’s private email server and release her correspondence. The CIA has since concluded Russia did interfere with the election in order to push voters away from Clinton and toward Trump.
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(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Elise Viebeck