U.S. ethics chief wary of Trump's conflicts of interests

U.S. ethics chief wary of Trump's conflicts of interests

None of those news broadcasts mentioned Trump lawyer Sherri Dillon's defense of the plan and her criticism of proposed alternatives. The Trump Organization's assets are hotels, golf courses and other highly visible properties branded with the Trump name.

The president-elect and his daughter Ivanka Trump will both leave their executive roles at the Trump Organization, putting the company in the hands of Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump and Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg. Unlike liquid assets like stocks and investment funds, much of Trump's wealth comes from office towers and other real estate that cannot be sold easily, as well as licensing deals that could be hard to unwind. Trump said during a press conference Wednesday that he'll pass the baton to his two sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump.

"I could actually run my business and run government at the same time", Trump said. Shaub said the president should be held to the same standard. He is far from alone, as many ethics experts agree Trump's plan is a sham.

Although presidents are not subject to the same conflict of interest rules as other government employees, previous commanders-in-chief have placed their investments into a blind trust to prevent any question of corruption. This is not a blind trust-it's not even close. Shaub, an attorney who has worked in at least five different federal government offices, called Trump's plan "meaningless" and "wholly inadequate".

The ethics agency director compared the Trump plan to what he characterised as secretary of state nominee Rex Tillerson's successful efforts to make a "clean break" from Exxon, where he was chairman and chief executive. He's also forfeiting bonus payments worth millions.

Trump seems to think he's above such things. Placing them under control of an independent trustee would not reduce their visibility, either to Trump or to parties seeking to affect his financial interests.

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Still, there has to be a middle ground. Trump should release his tax returns and quit claiming he has to wait for the completion of a federal audit. It's time to do the job he asked the American people to elect him to do. Small wonder that the latest Quinnipiac University poll pegs Mr. Trump's voter disapproval rate at 51 percent, a sign that his honeymoon may be over before it can even start.

I was especially troubled by the statement that the incoming administration is going to demand that OGE approve a diversified portfolio of assets.

He's wrong about that, at least according to a recent survey by the Pew Research Center.

The clash of views reflects different ideas of what "separation" should mean and how far Trump should go to avoid the desire for private profit coming before the pursuit of public good.

The consequences of divestiture, however, can't be known without a clear picture of Trump's financial affairs - not just assets, but also liabilities. They would learn how much he pays in taxes and how much he gives to charity. If his empire had shrunk under his sons' leadership, Trump said he would tell them "you're fired", echoing the catchphrase from his reality TV show "The Apprentice" and ending the press conference.