Donald Trump, accompanied by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, speaks during the grand opening of Trump International Hotel in Washington in October.

Donald Trump, accompanied by his daughter, Ivanka Trump, speaks during the grand opening of Trump International Hotel in Washington in October. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

Donald Trump Won't Divest From His Business Before Entering Office

The president-elect reportedly refuses to sell off his holdings, leaving questions about whether they will influence his policy.

Despite pronouncements to the contrary, it now seems that President-elect Donald J. Trump will not completely separate himself from his business before he takes office.

According to Monica Langley of The Wall Street Journal, the Trump Organization will not be selling off its global real-estate holdings for fear that doing so might cause either a fire sale or a bidding war. As Trump has said repeatedly, though never fully explicated, he will be stepping down from his leadership role in his business empire and leaving it to his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, who will stop attending their father’s meetings once he takes office in January. However, the president-elect will retain his ownership stake in the company.

That Trump has chosen not to divest comes as little surprise based on several of his previous statements on the topic. In a meeting with writers and editors from The New York Times, Trump alluded to the difficulty of selling off his holdings due to the illiquid nature of his assets. As a result, numerous experts, including Norm Eisen and Richard Painter, who served as the ethics lawyers for the Obama and Bush administrations, respectively, and Laurence Tribe, a constitutional-law professor at Harvard Law School, have already weighed in on the president-elect’s decision not to divest. According to them, simply stepping down from a leadership position—indeed, anything short of complete divestment—does not mitigate concerns regarding conflicts of interest. As long as Trump is profiting off of his business, they say, Trump will be in continual violation of the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which explicitly forbids the president from receiving gifts from foreign leaders—something that will effectively be happening any time a foreign government deals with the Trump Organization, whether by booking a room in one of its hotels or by easing the development of future properties in their own countries.

Why is Trump so reluctant to divest? Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo has suggested that perhaps it’s because doing so would be financially disastrous for him. As has been noted elsewhere, Trump and his company are currently hundreds of millions of dollars in debt to various financial institutions, with Trump himself personally liable for tens of millions; selling off his businesses might so disrupt his cash flow that he would no longer be able to meet his obligations.

Irrespective of Trump’s reasons not to divest, the president-elect’s decision leaves him open to continued scrutiny regarding his conflicts of interest. He may not actively involve himself in his company, but Trump will still be making money off of a multinational, multi-billion-dollar corporation while in office; simply leaving the decisions to his sons does little to put the requisite distance between the president-elect and his source of profit. The question of whether his business interests will influence his policy will remain until he is able to prove otherwise. The following guide details the specific instances presenting Trump with a conflict known to date.


The Background

Since his election, an ever-increasing level of attention has been paid to theunprecedented conflicts of interest that President-elect Donald J. Trump seemslikely to bring with him when he assumes office. His responses to the concerns have been varied and, at times, contradictory. His first statement on the subject, which came via Twitter, suggested that he would make little effort to avoid entangling his business and his office, and would instead attack those who point that out:

A few days later, in a conference with the editorial staff of The New York Times, he appeared similarly defiant, asserting, “The law’s totally on my side, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

The president-elect’s public stance since the election has been inconsistent at best and contradictory at worst. In an early-morning tweetstorm on November 30, Trump announced that he would be “holding a major news conference” on December 15 about a plan “being crafted which take[s] me completely out of business operations,” although he stressed again that he is “not mandated to do this under the law.” As the date approached, his spokeswoman announced that he would be delaying the press conference until January. According to The New York Times, Trump’s plans do not include any meaningful level of divestment; rather, he and his daughter Ivanka, who plans to take on a significant policy role in his administration, will be taking a leave of absence from the company. Though doing so may slightly improve the optics of the situation, the fact remains that Trump and his family will still be profiting off of their business, so the move does not mitigate his many conflicts of interest. In response, several Senate Democrats, led by Elizabeth Warren, have drafted legislation aimed at forcing Trump to divest or face impeachment.

So far, the only indication that Trump may actually be distancing himself from his financial holdings is that, on December 6, he and his spokesman Jason Miller announced that Trump had sold off his stocks in June. However, neither provided any evidence of the sale, and considering the president-elect’s history of questionable or downright false statements regarding his finances—see, for example, David Fahrenthold’s months-long, exhaustive debunking of Trump’s claims regarding his charitable giving and namesake foundation—the claim remains suspect. Until proof of the transaction has been established, such as by releasing broker records, this article will proceed based on his FEC filings, which remain the most recent documentation of his financial holdings.

Central to the discussion is that, as Trump has repeatedly pointed out, the president and vice president are exempt from the Office of Government Ethics’ rules preventing conflicts of interest within the executive branch. More recently, attention has shifted to the Emoluments Clause, a relatively obscure section of the Constitution barring the chief executive from receiving gifts from foreign governments, which some experts say Trump might violate if his properties receive preferential treatment from other world leaders. However, case law on the clause’s possible application is sparse.

At any rate, legality does not imply propriety. Unless Trump acts to put appropriate distance between himself and his business ventures, these questions are likely to continue throughout his time in the Oval Office.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.