Now that Donald Trump is president-elect of the United States, he’ll need to decide what to do with the businesses that helped make him famous. And, his current solution is doing little to prevent a huge conflict of interest.
Trump is the chairman and president of the Trump Organisation, a conglomerate that owns properties around the world including commercial spaces, hotels, and golf courses. While the Trump Organisation is primarily a real-estate holding company, it also owns brands including books, such as “The Art of the Deal,” and Trump Natural Spring Water.
Trump has said, as president, he has little interest in his business and plans to separate himself from the company, handing control over to the next generation. His three oldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric — currently serve as executive vice presidents of the Trump Organisation.
On Sunday, Rudy Giuliani reiterated Trump’s plan to set up a variation on a “blind trust,” in which the three children take over the business.
Once Trump is president, Giuliani said “there will have to be a wall” between him and his children “with regard to government matters.” Trump could potentially sign a document promising that he would not have any input or active interest in his business.
Trump’s decisions so far as president-elect have done little to separate his children from his politics.
All three children who have been tapped to take over Trump Organisation are on the executive committee of Trump’s transition team. Even if they do refrain from discussing politics and business with their father after his inauguration, they are currently in a position to help appoint others to roles that could create beneficial policies and conditions for the Trump Organisation.
Further, while Trump and his advisors have repeatedly used the phrase “blind trust,” entrusting Trump Organisation to his children is not a blind trust at all.
Most US presidents put their investments in a blind trust for the length of their presidency, NPR reported, because they use an independent financial advisor free of potential conflicts of interest. The Trump children are not an independent third-party, separate from their father, meaning that their takeover would not be “blind.”
“The fact that they have been included as part of the transition team just shows how inappropriate their role in bridging the gap between him as a businessman and politician is,” Meredith McGehee, a strategic adviser at the Campaign Legal Center, told the Washington Post. “It’s a clear demonstration that there is no firewall between the two.”
Further, even if Trump does purposefully divorce himself from Trump Organisation, since his name is so closely tied to his business, attempting to separate the president-elect’s decisions as a politician from those of businessman would be complicated.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump’s actions as a politician directly impacted his business — and not in a way that benefitted the president-elect. Visits to Trump-branded hotels, casinos, and golf courses have slumped since Trump announced his candidacy in June 2015, according to data collected by Foursquare.
Throughout the presidential campaign, Trump made an effort to promote his brand. In October, for example, Trump took time off from campaigning to attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, just a few blocks from the White House.
The Trump Organisation did not respond to Business Insider’s request for comment.
Trump didn’t release his tax returns during his campaign for president and still doesn’t plan to while under audit (despite the fact it is legally possible), making it difficult to judge how wealthy he really is. A financial disclosure form that Trump was required to fill out revealed in May that he had at least $1.5 billion in assets. Trump has boasted that he is worth more than $10 billion.
President-elect Trump has said that, once he is president, he has no interest in the well-being of his business.
“Who cares? This is big league stuff. This is our country. Our country is going bad. We’re going to save our country,” Trump said in an interview with “60 Minutes” that aired on Sunday. “I don’t care about hotel occupancy. It’s peanuts compared to what we’re doing — health care, making people better. It’s unfair what’s happened to the people of our country and we’re going to change it, it’s as simple as that.”
In the interview, Ivanka agreed with her father, saying his presidency and the state of the country “is so much more important and more serious” than the Trump business.
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