One of the biggest problems dogging the incoming Trump administration would be Donald Trump’s vast business holdings conflicting with his performance as president. In the week after the election, the Washington Post reported that Trump DC hotel officials had done outreach to local foreign embassies; Trump met with Indian businessmen who work with his brand; Ivanka Trump took part in a state meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister; an Argentinian reporter said that Trump and his daughter Ivanka had requested a business favor on a phone call with the Argentinian president; Trump himself told The New York Times that he’d be capable of running his business alongside his presidency. All of this was disquieting.
Now, Trump clearly understands the problem. He tweeted this morning:
I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my ...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! While I am not mandated to ....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
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..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
This isn’t enough – we still need to know exactly how these legal documents will shape up. Will Trump give up his ownership stake? There’s no indicator he will. Will his children continue to run the business, and yet continue to advise him in his role as president? That would continue to maintain the conflict. Will Trump liquidate his businesses? That’s highly unlikely, according to this statement. In a joint statement, Richard Painter, George W. Bush’s ethics lawyer, and Norman Elsen, Barack Obama’s ethics lawyer, said that Trump’s continued business interests would “sometimes conflict with the public interest and constantly raise questions.”
But at least Trump recognizes the problem. That’s at least half the battle. We can hope that he’ll be cautious enough to actually silo his business and political interests, preventing the taint of scandal from destroying his White House before it launches. Good for Trump. Now let’s pray he carries out his pledge.