Donald Trump press conference: Folders 'containing his business plan' appear to be blank

The President-elect also packed the press conference with staff members who laughed and applauded throughout

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The Independent US

The papers that Donald Trump made the centre of his first press conference in six months actually appear to have been blank.

The conference also appears to have been filled with staff members who were expected to laugh and applaud throughout the event.

The President-elect claimed that the documents, which were placed next to him as he spoke, were evidence of the preparations he had made to give over control of his businesses to his sons. That move has been claimed by Mr Trump and his lawyers as a way of avoiding any conflicts of interest during his time as President, but it hs been criticised as inadequate by the Office of Government Ethics.

Both Mr Trump and his lawyer Sheri Dillon pointed at those documents and claimed they were just part of the various papers required to separate Mr Trump from his business. They each pointed at the pile repeatedly as proof that the preparations were being made.

But reporters were not allowed to look at any of the documents, which all were held in folders meaning that the actual paper was hidden.

And the pages themselves appear to be blank. While the majority of the sheets were hidden, some of them were visible – and there was no sign of page numbers or the sticky notes that lawyers tend to use to mark places in large documents. 

The paper itself also appeared to be the wrong size, printed on A4 rather than legal size sheets, and appears to have fallen like fresh sheets of paper. And the folders themselves were also entirely blank, despite Mr Trump suggesting that each of them related to a different business that Mr Trump was moving himself away from.

It is possible that the documents had been printed precisely for the press conference, but the fact that reporters weren't allowed to check the details of the documents led to concern that they didn't include any information at all.

The room also appears to have been filled with staff members, as well as the reporters who attended the event. Those staff members laughed and applauded throughout the conference, in noted contrast with the occasional hostility from journalists.

The papers supposedly put Mr Trump's business assets into a trust. But they also hand over the management of his international real estate development, property management and licensing company based in New York to his sons.

Trump and the company are taking steps to assure Americans that he is "not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit," said Sheri Dillon of the firm Morgan Lewis & Bockius. 

Yet, the arrangement, which tracks closely with plans Trump has described in recent weeks, falls short of calls by some ethics experts — and the Office of Government Ethics — for him to sell off his businesses and put the proceeds in a blind trust overseen by an independent manager. 

US Ethics chief brands Donald Trump's plan to handle business interests as 'wholly inadequate'

"Firewalls work in businesses, not in families," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight. "Trump's plan doesn't prevent his business interests from benefiting him or his family while he's in office or interfering with his presidential duties." 

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