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Trump ‘Leaving’ Business Does Nothing to Alleviate Conflicts of Interest

Nov. 30, 2016

Trump ‘Leaving’ Business Does Nothing to Alleviate Conflicts of Interest

Statement of Robert Weissman, President, Public Citizen

Note: President-elect Donald Trump claimed Wednesday that he is drawing up documents that will take him “completely out” of his business operations “in order to fully focus on running the country.”

While it’s great that President-elect Trump won’t be picking out tiles for the bathrooms in the next Trump Tower, “legal documents” that take him “completely out of business operations” will do absolutely nothing to alleviate any of the myriad, consequential conflicts of interest that will bedevil his presidency and America.

There is only one way to avoid the conflicts: Sell the business completely.

As long as President Trump owns the business, the conflicts will continue whether or not he’s involved in business operations.

As long as the Trump children run the family business and/or maintain a significant ownership stake, while also remaining enmeshed in White House business as they plainly will be, the conflicts will continue.

These conflicts are important not so much because they transgress the most basic norms of ethical propriety, or because they suggest the possibility of the Trump family using the presidency for self-enrichment, or because they degrade the office with tawdry commercialism, though all of those concerns are real.

The conflicts are important because they will unavoidably and profoundly affect policymaking, covering everything from consumer protection to worker rights, from bankruptcy rules to tax policy, even the conduct of foreign policy.

Hopefully, President-elect Trump will surprise us with his Dec. 15 announcement and reveal that he and his children really are severing ties with the business. But nothing we’ve seen so far suggests that will be the case.