Ethics experts grow wary as Trump hedges over business empire | News | DW | 13.12.2016
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Ethics experts grow wary as Trump hedges over business empire

An announcement was supposed to come this week - detailing how Trump would separate himself from his business empire. That has been delayed until January, but Trump has already said he will not sell his holdings.

President-elect Donald Trump said he will not sell of his business empire, but will step away from managing it when he becomes president in order to avoid conflicts of interest.

But ethics experts say his refusal to sell his commercial assets would shatter a presidential precedent on conflicts, and open the door to investigations and lawsuits that could cripple his administration.

"My executives will run it with my children," he said in a Fox News interview that aired Sunday. He added that he will not have "anything to do with management" and won't "do deals" for his business while he's president.

That's "a step in the right direction, but he can't have people doing deals on his behalf," said Richard Painter, the chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush. "He can't have ownership."

For decades, presidents have sold their stocks and other personal assets and put cash into a blind trust overseen by an investment manager. For instance, to stay on the right side of ethics,

President Jimmy Carter sold his Georgia peanut farm - but that was just one business in one state.

Trump's complex empire

By contrast Trump's situation is far more complex. His Trump Organization has ownership stakes in residential towers, hotels, resorts and golf clubs in the US, as well as licensing and property management deals for similar properties around the world.

In a financial disclosure form he was required to file during the campaign, he listed stakes in about 500 companies in more than two dozen countries.

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Trump to quit business empire for presidency

Ethics experts say that only by selling to an uninterested third party can Trump satisfy critics who say that otherwise he could shape regulatory, tax or foreign policies to enrich himself. A sale would also prevent people from trying to influence policies by helping - or threatening to hurt - his business.

He had scheduled a press conference for this week to explain how he will separate himself from his business interests but that has now been delayed, according to his spokesman Sean Spicer.

"The announcement will be in January," he said.

bik/kl (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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