In his first press conference since the election, President-elect Donald Trump announced that he will not completely divest from his vast business holdings and would instead place his assets in a trust controlled by his sons Donald Trump, Jr. and Eric Trump and a trusted executive at the Trump Organization.
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.
Standing next to a table stacked with dozens of document-packed file folders, Trump attorney Sheri Dillon detailed the president-elect’s plan to distance himself from his wide-ranging business interests, several times emphasizing that Trump was taking the measures “voluntarily” because conflict of interest laws do not apply to presidents, she said.
“He instructed us to take all steps realistically possible to make it clear that he is not exploiting the office of the presidency for his personal benefit,” Dillon said, noting that Trump “will resign from all officer and other positions he holds with the Trump organization entities.”
Trump will place the majority of his assets—including cash, real estate and licensing entities—into a trust controlled by his sons by January 20th, she said. The trust agreement includes the hiring of an ethics adviser who must evaluate all new deals the Trump Organization makes that could pose possible conflicts of interest. The company will make no new foreign deals, but can work domestically. Trump plans to donate any foreign government payments made to his hotels to the US federal government.
“He will only know of a deal if he reads it in the paper or sees it on TV,” Dillon said.
Dillon told reporters that selling off the company wouldn’t eliminate conflicts, and in fact might even “exacerbate them.”
Before bringing his attorney to the podium, Trump bragged about turning down a $2 billion deal pitched by Dubai real estate developer Hussain Sajwani. “I turned it down, I didn’t have to turn it down,” he said.
While not unexpected, Trump’s decision to hand his business and assets to family members will disappoint many top government ethics authorities, including the federal Office of Government Ethics, which urged Trump to enact a complete divestiture that would not put any family members of the Trump Organization in personal control of his assets.
After the election Trump avoided making specific comments about how he would divest, at first merely telling New York Times reporters in November “I would like to do something.” He later wrote on Twitter that he planned to leave his businesses “in total” and would address the specifics at a future press conference. The Times reported in early December, however, that Trump was exploring a “legal structure” for just a partial divestment from his business entities and assets with the plan of keeping a stake in the Trump Organization.
On Monday, an attorney for Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner told reporters that Kushner would divest from more than 35 assets by selling them at fair market value, although many of them would go to his brother Josh Kushner or into a trust controlled by his mother, Seryl, raising concerns about whether transfers of interests to family members can be considered a true divestment. The attorney also announced Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump, would resign from her position an executive vice president of the Trump Organization as well as from her position at the head of her eponymous fashion line.