Donald Trump: Critics question President-elect proposal to 'leave business'

Mr Trump has said he will provide full details of the plan in two weeks

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The Independent Online

Donald Trump has said he is leaving his “great business in order to fully focus on running the country in order” after coming under intense pressure from opponents and supporters alike.

Yet Mr Trump, who made the announcement during a string of early-morning tweets, said he would not be announcing the details of the legal process that will “take me completely out of business operations” until 15 December.

Nor was it clear whether Mr Trump’s adult children, including Donald Trump Jr and Ivanka, will remain at the helm of the multinational operation, while remaining a phone call away from their father as he focuses on running the country.

It has left the US – and the indeed, the rest of world – once again uncertain precisely what the President-elect means.

Ever since Mr Trump become President-elect, people have raised questions about the potential conflict of interest between his business interests and his running of the US.

At the weekend, CNN said that in most recent financial disclosures, Mr Trump listed 144 individual companies that have had dealings in at least 25 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, South America and North America, among other companies with regional international interests. 

The interests range from management deals with golf courses in the United Arab Emirates; branding agreements with real estate projects that bear Mr Trump’s name in India; and companies that have been involved with beverage sales in Israel.

The network said that some of those dealings have already become a focal point of controversy, such as Trump Towers Istanbul, which received criticism from Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after Mr Trump proposed a ban on Muslims entering the US.

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During the campaign, Mr Trump and his supporters suggested his children would continue to run the business empire, while their father ran the Oval Office. But that falls short of the blind trust that many have suggested Mr Trump should establish to defend himself from accusations of impropriety.

Conservative voices such as The Wall Street Journal have suggested Mr Trump liquidate all his assets and place them in a genuine blind trust. It said it would benefit both him and the country.

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Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe meets US President-elect Donald Trump and his daughter, Ivanka, at Trump Tower in New York (Reuters)

“One reason 60 million voters elected Donald Trump is because he promised to change Washington's culture of self-dealing, and if he wants to succeed he’s going to have to make a sacrifice and lead by example,” the paper said in an editorial.

Yet in an interview with The New York Times, Mr Trump claimed – in a view supported by constitutional experts – that “the law’s totally on my side” when it comes to questions about conflict of interest and ethics laws.

 

“The president can’t have a conflict of interest,” he said.

He said it would be extremely difficult to sell off his businesses because they were real estate holdings. He said that he would “like to do something” and create some kind of arrangement to separate his businesses from his work in government.

On Wednesday, as news of Mr Trump’s announcement spread, many were quick to question whether his plan would meet the ethical standard demanded by the public to avoid a conflict of interest.

David Frum, a well-known conservative commentator and a former speech writer for Presdient George W Bush, said: “Business operations isn’t the test – but everybody knew that already.”

He added: “The test is: will Trump on 15 December remove the large existing incentives to try to bribe the President and his family?" 

Yet it seems that Mr Trump may force the country to wait two weeks before providing any more details.

“I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on 15 December to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my businesses.”

“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,” he said.

“Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The presidency is a far more important task.”

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