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Trump to Give Up Leadership of Trump Organization But Will Not Create Blind Trust

Trump attorney Sheri A. Dillon said that Trump "should not be expected to destroy the company he built"

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    Trump to Give Up Leadership of Trump Organization But Will Not Create Blind Trust
    AP
    President-elect Donald Trump shakes hands with his son Donald Trump Jr. after speaking during a news conference, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, in New York. The news conference was his first as President-elect.

    President-elect Donald Trump will relinquish leadership of the Trump Organization to his adult sons and create a trust for his assets, but it will not be the blind trust that his critics and many ethics experts insist is necessary to eliminate concerns about conflicts of interest.

    Trump's attorneys counter that a blind trust, in which Trump's assets would be managed by independent trustees, is not realistic. 

    "President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company he built," one of his attorneys, Sheri A. Dillon, said during a news conference on Wednesday.

    In addition, Trump will donate any profits from foreign governments, such as payments for staying at his hotels, to the Treasury Department to address arguments that he would violate the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

    The president is exempt from conflict of interest laws but must answer to the Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution, which refers to salaries, fees or profits from employment or office. 

    The clause says that "no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State." 

    Trump will place his golf courses, hotels, resorts and hundreds of other assets in the trust by Jan. 20 and he will turn over the management of the Trump Organization to his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump and Trump Organization executive Alan Weisselberg. 

    They will make all decisions without any involvement from Trump, and they must follow instructions that terminated all pending deals and impose severe restrictions on new deals, according to Trump's attorneys. Those restrictions including a ban on any new deals in foreign jurisdictions while Trump is in office but contracts for weddings or golf tournaments would be permitted. 

    The Trump Organization will continue to make new deals in the United States. Trump will know of them only if he reads about them in newspapers or hears about them on television, Dillon said.

    Trump's right to information will be sharply limited, according to the attorneys. Reports will only show profits and loss on the company as a whole.

    "There will no separate business-by-business accounting," said Dillon, of the Morgan Lewis & Bockius law firm.

    Remaining debt will continue to be paid down. 

    "He’s voluntarily taken this on," Dillon said. "The conflict of interest laws simply do not apply to the president and the vice president."

    The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. which is in the historic Old Post Office, is leased from the General Services Administration, but Trump's attorneys argued that it did not pose a conflict of interest. The lease was entered into before Trump became president as a result of competitive bidding and the payments are being made as required, they argue. 

    Trump's daughter Ivanka, whose husband, Jared Kushner, has been named a White House adviser, will have no further involvement with the Trump Organization. 

    "Ivanka will be focused on settling their children in their new home and new schools," Dillon said.

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    An ethics adviser, whose written approval will be needed for any new deal that could raise questions, will be appointed to the Trump Organization's management team. Interviews are being conducted for the ethics adviser. 

    A new position, compliance officer, also will be created at the organization.

    Ethics experts immediately dismissed the plan as inadequate.

    "This does not address the emoluments clause concerns, this does not address the conflict concerns," said Kathleen Clark, an ethics specialist at University of Washington law school. "This is using the language of ethics without addressing the actual ethics concerns."

    Clark disagreed with interpretation of the Emoluments Clause presented by Trump's attorneys -- that it did not apply to fair market exchanges. She told NBC News that all profits would be covered and that the plan to donate them would be insufficient.

    And how would the public evaluate compliance? she asked.

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    "This really is smoke and mirrors," she said.

    Clark said that Trump needed to cut his ownerships ties to his businesses to demonstrate to Americans that he was prioritizing his work as president. 

    The public also needs to know about Trump's debt, to whom he owes money and how much, she said.

    The director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, which oversees the ethics program in the executive branch, said that the plan did not meet the standards followed by presidents of the past four decades.

    Speaking at the Brookings Institution, Walter M. Shaub said that the office's recommendation was that Trump divest himself of assets that created a conflict.

    "I don't think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be president," Shaub said.

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