- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2017

While saying he could legally run both the White House and his company, President-elect Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he would turn day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization over to his sons and would put his ownership stake in a trust for the duration of his presidency.

He also said that in order to be completely safe when it comes to international entanglements, he’ll donate the profits from every hotel room in his empire that’s paid for by a foreign government, sending the money to the U.S. Treasury instead of pocketing it.

The president-elect declined to sell his stake in the Trump Organization — a move many ethics watchdogs had wanted — but said he is resigning as the chief and will have no say in the management, leaving it entirely to his two adult sons.

“Don and Eric are going to be running the company,” he said. “They’re not going to discuss it with me.”

His daughter, Ivanka, is also disassociating herself from the company as she and her husband, Jared Kushner, move to Washington. Mr. Kushner will be a senior adviser in the White House.

At a press conference in New York, the Trump presidential transition team displayed mounds of file folders filled with paperwork they said was part of the process of conveying operations of the company to the Trump sons.

Sheri Dillon, a tax lawyer for Mr. Trump, said the company has decided not to enter into any new foreign deals for the duration of the presidency. She said new domestic deals are allowed, but will be carefully scrutinized, including by an ethics expert.

Some deals in the works were already canceled late last year to avoid conflicts of interest, costing the Trump family millions of dollars, Ms. Dillon said.

Mr. Trump said he was even approached last weekend about a $2 billion deal in Dubai, but turned it down. He said he could legally have gone through with it, since conflict-of-interest laws don’t apply to the president himself, but he said he wanted to avoid bad appearances.

Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, said Mr. Trump’s moves fall short of what ethics experts had wanted to see. He said Congress must now step in and scrutinize what Mr. Trump is doing.

“Congress must do this by obtaining all corporate and legal documents relating to the president-elect’s global entanglements and business dealings, including the tax returns he promised to produce to the American people,” Mr. Cummings said.

But it’s unlikely he’ll get very far. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, said earlier this week that while his committee has expansive powers, he never used them to probe President Obama himself.

Watchdog groups in Washington said Mr. Trump should sell his ownership stake in his company in order to remove questions going forward.

“There is no reason why Trump would not be affected by the fortunes of a business he founded and still owns, which is run by his adult children,” said Trevor Potter, president of the Campaign Legal Center.

“His decision has created a direct path by which U.S. and foreign interests, including foreign governments, can exert influence over him through his companies or holdings,” Mr. Potter said.

One area where Mr. Trump could see a conflict is his new hotel in the Old Post Office building in Washington, D.C. The General Services Administration, which owns the building, said it will have to see the details of the arrangement once Mr. Trump is in office before deciding whether it violates the terms of the lease.

That lease says that no elected official in the federal government can be a part of the lease.

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