Trump Postpones Announcement On Plan For Businesses
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
President-elect Donald Trump says he'll walk away from his sprawling business before he takes office next month, but details of that separation will have to wait. Trump postponed a news conference planned for this week where he was supposed to spell out his plans to distance himself from the Trump Organization. Ethics watchdogs have urged Trump to sell his stakes in his multibillion-dollar business. The president-elect is resisting that.
NPR's Scott Horsley joins us now. And Scott, of course people were waiting for this news conference, which was set for Thursday. It's now been put off. But there were a couple of late-night tweets. What can you tell us about that?
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Yeah, the Trump team had said yesterday that they were going to postpone that news conference until sometime next month. And then late last night, Trump tweeted out, quote, "I will be leaving my business before January 20 so I can focus full-time on the presidency." He added that his sons, Don Jr. and Eric, would manage the business in his absence and that no new deals would be done during the time he's in the Oval Office. Trump had telegraphed something similar over the weekend when he spoke to Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday."
(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY WITH CHRIS WALLACE")
DONALD TRUMP: I turned down seven deals with one big player, great player, last week because I thought it could be perceived as a conflict of interest. It was...
CHRIS WALLACE: But your kids are going to be able to do it?
TRUMP: ...Probably a billion dollars of deals that I turned down because...
WALLACE: But if your kids do it, isn't it going to be the same thing?
TRUMP: No, it's totally different. They're not president. I mean, they're not president. But they're not going to do it, either.
CORNISH: Scott, help us understand what we're hearing. He's talking about having his sons run the business while he runs the country.
HORSLEY: That's right. And that's a subtle change from what Donald Trump has said in the past. He used to talk about having his three eldest children run the business. But now it sounds as if his daughter, Ivanka Trump, is also planning to put some distance between herself and the Trump Organization. Now, Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, have both been close advisers to the president-elect. Kushner tagged along when Trump visited the White House last month, and Ivanka Trump sat in on her dad's meeting with the Japanese prime minister, as well as a meeting last week with former Vice President Al Gore. Kushner and Ivanka Trump reportedly have been house hunting here in Washington, and there is speculation that one or both of them could play some ongoing role in a Trump White House.
CORNISH: If Trump and his daughter were to simply walk away from the Trump Organization, would that satisfy ethics watchdogs?
HORSLEY: I put that question to Noah Bookbinder. He's the executive director of a group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. He says that doesn't go far enough.
NOAH BOOKBINDER: Not even close. The problem is that Donald Trump knows what his business interests are. Most of them have his name on them. He knows where his hotels are, what properties he controls, what kinds of deals they're involved in. Him stepping away won't reduce his knowledge of all of that and of what things would benefit those companies.
HORSLEY: Keep in mind Trump has billions of dollars' worth of assets scattered across hundreds of companies in 20 different countries. And as long as those business ties are there, watchdogs say, there will be questions about whether a decision that Donald Trump makes as president is in the country's best interest or the best interest of his personal businesses.
The only way they - to avoid that, ethics watchdogs say, is for Trump to sell his business and to put the proceeds into something like a blind trust. There were more than 20 Democratic senators who sent a letter to Trump today urging him to do just that, but he's shown no inclination to move in that direction. And, as the president-elect likes to point out, there's no law that requires him to do so.
CORNISH: That's NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, thank you.
HORSLEY: My pleasure, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.