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Trump says will step away from business, focus on White House

Image: Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump arrives for his election night rally at the New York Hilton Midtown in Manhattan, New York, U.S., November 9, 2016.

By Steve Holland and Melissa Fares

NEW YORK (Reuters) – U.S. President-elect Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to step back from running his global business empire to avoid conflicts of interest, as concern over his dual role mounts ahead of the Republican’s inauguration on Jan. 20.

Trump, a real estate magnate who owns hotels and golf resorts from Panama to Scotland, said he will spell out at a Dec. 15 news conference how he will separate himself “in total” from his worldwide business holdings, which include a winery, modelling agency, and a range of other businesses.

His company, the Trump Organization, had previously said it was looking at new business structures with the goal of transferring control of his portfolio to his Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump – three of his adult children who are involved with the company.

His children are also on the executive committee of his White House transition team.

Trump gave few details in a series of early morning tweets on Wednesday, but said “legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations” and said his children will attend the news conference.

A brand name around the globe, Trump had previously argued that he had no need to separate himself from the Trump Organization, which includes a hotel down the street from the White House, a Manhattan tower where he lives and is running his transition to office, and a New Jersey golf course where he interviewed cabinet candidates earlier this month.

Trump said on Wednesday he is not required by law to alter his relationship with his business, but added: “I feel it is visually important, as president, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”

As the Republican heads toward taking over the White House from President Barack Obama, scrutiny of potential conflicts has grown.

Trump’s businesswoman daughter Ivanka joined her father’s telephone call with Argentine President Mauricio Macri earlier this month and attended a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, raising questions of possible conflicts of interest.

Rules on conflict of interest for executive branch employees do not apply to the president, but Trump will be bound by bribery laws, disclosure requirements and a section of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits elected officials from taking gifts from foreign governments.


Trump, a former reality TV star, has spend much of the last few weeks setting up his new cabinet and interviewing candidates for top jobs in his administration.

On Wednesday, Trump said he will nominate his chief campaign fundraiser Steven Mnuchin to lead the U.S. Treasury. Mnuchin said the administration would make tax reform and trade pact overhauls top priorities as it seeks a sustained pace of 3 percent to 4 percent economic growth.

Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, also signalled a desire to remove U.S. mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from government ownership, a move that could have wide-ranging ramifications for how Americans pay for their homes, and said banking regulations should be eased to spur lending.

Trump named Wilbur Ross, a billionaire known for his investments in distressed industries, as his nominee for commerce secretary. Both nominees will require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.

Trump also on Wednesday asked Preet Bharara, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan appointed by Obama in 2009, to stay in his role.

Bharara is known for pursuing a series of high-profile cases targeting public corruption and crime on Wall Street, and has won praise in New York for pursuing corruption investigations involving state and city politics, as well as financial crime.

Trump is considering Goldman Sachs President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn, a former commodities trader, to head his White House budget office or to fill another position, a Trump transition official said.

The Wall Street picks were panned by regulatory watchdog groups. Trump’s spokesman defended giving top economic jobs to Wall Street figures despite an election campaign pledge to “drain the swamp” of establishment figures in government.

“There’s nobody else who understands the challenges that American workers and businesses face,” Trump spokesman Jason Miller said.

Trump was also working to fill out his foreign policy team, but no decision appeared imminent on who the next secretary of state will be.

He met on Tuesday with former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani about the top diplomatic post, a transition aide said, and later dined with 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney, at a French restaurant near Central Park on Tuesday night.

Romney, who had slammed Trump during the campaign, made an impassioned statement in support of the president-elect after their meal.

Miller said Trump had told him that “he thought the dinner went really well” and that there was good chemistry between the men, who are still getting to know each other.

Trump was to meet on Wednesday with another potential secretary of state pick, retired Marine General John Kelly.

(Additional reporting by David Lawder and Eric Walsh in Washington and Melissa Fares in New York; Writing by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Bill Trott and Alistair Bell)

Copyright 2015 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions.



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