President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that he would “leave” his business operations “in total to fully focus on running the country.”
Trump’s vast interests in real estate and other ventures have raised unprecedented concerns about the potential for conflict of interest, both at home and internationally.
In one of a series of tweets, Trump said he would be “leaving my great business in total.”
“Legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!” he said.
However, Trump made no mention that he would be giving up ownership of the Trump Organization, which includes hotels, golf resorts and other properties and many licensing deals that span the globe.
Neither did he specify whether his separation from his businesses would be permanent.
To avoid conflicts or the perception that his presidency would benefit his financial empire, government ethics lawyers and watchdog groups have urged him to sell off his businesses and put the assets in a blind trust to be managed by an independent third party.
Trump said last week that he has been turning over operations of his businesses to three of his children, who already have senior positions at the Trump Organization.
But some critics have said turning over control to his children may not be enough to alleviate such concerns, since several of his adult children remain active in planning his transition.
“What he does not seem to realize, or does not want to admit, is that the conflicts arise from his ownership of the Trump Organization,” said Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, in reacting to Trump’s announcement Wednesday. “He will continue to know what his business interests are and to benefit from them whether or not he is involved in the day-to-day management, so the conflicts remain unchanged.”
Federal conflict-of-interest rules for government employees and members of Congress don’t apply to the president.
Trump said in an interview with the New York Times last week that “the president can’t have a conflict of interest … In theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent.”
He said then that it would be very hard to sell off his businesses because they are mostly real estate, but also noted that he would like “to try and formalize something” in terms of an arrangement that would distance his businesses from his work as president.
On Wednesday, he tweeted that “While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”
Trump said he would detail the changes at a New York news conference with his children on Dec. 15.