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Billionaire investor Carl Icahn steps down as Trump advisor amid conflict of interest claims

The 81-year-old billionaire has denied any impropriety

Andrew Buncombe
New York
Saturday 19 August 2017 15:57 BST
The octogenarian has dismissed suggestions he had acted improperly
The octogenarian has dismissed suggestions he had acted improperly (Reuters)

A billionaire investor has quit as a special advisor to Donald Trump amid allegations that the recommendations he was giving could benefit his own fortune.

News of Carl Icahn’s decision to step down amid concerns about a possible conflict of interest - an accusation denied by Mr Icahn - were largely overshadowed by Mr Trump’s firing of his special advisor Steve Bannon.

Yet, commentators pointed out the departure of Mr Icahn was the latest in a series of White House officials and outside advisors to the President to either resign or be sacked. In addition to the firing of former Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Communications Director Anthony Scaramuuci and now Mr Bannon, Mr Trump has also seen the members of two business advisory councils quit, along with a group that advised him on arts and cultural issues.

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Reuters said several Democratic politicians had claimed Mr Icahn’s guidance to the Trump administration created a conflict of interest with his businesses, including oil refining company CVR Energy Inc. Mr Icahn has denied any conflict of interest.

“I chose to end this arrangement (with your blessing) because I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration,“ Mr Icahn wrote in a letter to Mr Trump that was released on his website.

Mr Icahn, who leads Icahn Enterprises LP, was an early and close ally of Mr Trump who was often praised by the Republican for his business acumen.

Mr Icahn was so sure Mr Trump’s election last year would give a boost to stocks that he left the campaign’s victory party to make a $1bn bet on the market, he told Reuters last year. The day after the election, stocks jumped.

Bloomberg News said Mr Icahn, drew criticism for pushing a change in US biofuel policy that would benefit the company. It said separate questions were raised last month regarding his role in regulatory decisions affecting American International Group Inc (AIG), an insurer in which he he holds a significant stake.

Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Sheldon Whitehouse sent a letter last month to Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin asking if there was correspondences between the billionaire and officials about AIG. Mr Icahn had pushed for a break up of the insurer in order to help it escape its regulatory tag as “too-big-to-fail”, but eased his demands this year.

“We write to seek assurances that Mr Icahn has not provided input on or received information on a pending decision regarding AIG’s status,” they wrote.

“If he was not willing to admit he was a de facto special government employee, and follow the rules, then he had no place serving in government,” said Norman Eisen, co-founder of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a former ethics lawyer for Barack Obama.

“His short tenure, marred by serious conflicts allegations, was yet another black eye for an administration that has become notorious for violations of ethics and the rule of law.”

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