Trump should divest himself of his business to avoid conflict of interest: US ethics office

14 December 2016

President-elect Donald Trump would need to divest himself of his vast business interests to avoid conflicts of interest while in the White House, according to a letter from the US Office of Government Ethics (OGE).

It said, transferring ownership of his businesses to his grown children would not go far enough to address the conflicts.

"Transferring operational control of a company to one's children would not constitute the establishment of a qualified blind trust, nor would it eliminate conflicts of interest" under federal statutes governing conflicts of interest, OGE director Walter M Shaub, Jr said in a letter.

The letter comes in response to questions from Democratic senator Tom Carper of Delaware, ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, who wrote: "The full extent of his financial interests remains unclear, in part because he was the first presidential candidate in modern history to decline to release his tax returns to the American public. These unique circumstances raise important questions about how the Administration of President-elect Trump will avoid conflicts of interest and ensure integrity of executive branch programs and operation."

According to commentators, in view of his vast network of licensing deals, golf courses and commercial real estate, Trump and his family stood to profit from his presidency to an unprecedented degree.

Trump's business empire therefore represented an unprecedented source of conflicts of interest between his presidential duties and the hundreds of private companies he controlled, which he said he would not sell  and would leave to his sons to run.

However, luckily for Trump, the president of the US is exempt from most of the conflict of interest rules that govern other federal employees.

''In theory, I can be president of the United States and run my business 100 percent,'' Trump told The New York Times in November.

However, a 2012 law called the STOCK Act could come in the way of Trump's plan. According to a section of that law ''no executive branch employee may use nonpublic information derived from [or acquired through] their position as an executive branch employee as a means for making a private profit.''

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