What Trump is really doing about his business

Trump: I will turn business over to my sons
Trump: I will turn business over to my sons

President-elect Donald Trump laid out a complex plan on Wednesday that he says will isolate him from his business and prevent conflicts of interest.

Ethics lawyers say it's not nearly enough.

At a press conference, Trump and his lawyer tossed out enough legal and financial terminology that "people who want to believe that he's taking care of the problem can point to something," said Larry Noble, general counsel of the Campaign Legal Center, a government watchdog group.

"But the reality is that he hasn't taken care of any of the problems."

Here's a closer look at what Trump has, and has not, promised to do.


Trump will: Put his investments and business holdings into some type of trust controlled by his two adult sons, Don Jr. and Eric. "I hope at the end of eight years, I'll come back and say, oh, you did a good job," the incoming president said. "Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I'll say, 'You're fired.'"

Trump will not: Create a blind trust, which would require him to liquidate his holdings and let an independent manager handle the cash without his knowledge. This is the approach favored by past presidents and by ethics experts because it separates the president's personal profit motive from his decisions on behalf of the government.

Running the business

Trump will: Resign leadership of the Trump Organization, the umbrella company for his real estate holdings, golf clubs, hotels and licensing deals. His two oldest sons, Don Jr. and Eric, will run the organization along with a Trump Organization executive.

Trump will not: Sell any of his business holdings. Any decisions made by his sons, or the federal government, that help the business will ultimately improve Trump's bank account.

What Trump will know

Trump will: Receive reports on the overall profit of the Trump organization.

Trump will not: Receive reports on individual companies within the organization. His lawyer says he will only learn about a deal if it shows up in the press. He has also promised not to talk to his sons about their business decisions, though there's no way for the public to know whether he follows through.

New deals

The Trump Organization will not: Enter into new deals in foreign countries while Trump is president.

The Trump Organization will: Make deals in the United States, though Trump promises they must first be approved in writing by an in-house ethics adviser.

Hotel profits

Trump will: Donate to the U.S. Treasury any profits from foreign government payments to his hotels.

Trump will not: Give up ownership of those hotels. Ethics lawyers say this will put Trump in violation of a clause in the Constitution that bars federal officeholders from accepting a "present, emolument, office or title" from a foreign country.

Review process

Trump will: Direct the Trump Organization to hire an in-house ethics adviser to review any decisions that could pose conflicts of interest with Trump's role as president.

Trump will not: Release his tax returns, which would give the public more detail about Trump's business interests, wealth, debt and foreign investments.

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