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Tuesday January 31st

Trump addresses conflict of interest concerns before inauguration

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in the Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday, June 14th.
Buy Photos Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump spoke in the Greensboro Coliseum on Tuesday, June 14th.

In the week leading up to his inauguration, President Donald Trump and his lawyer Sheri Dillon announced a series of steps the newly elected president would take to avoid conflicts of interest. 

During a Jan. 11 press conference, Dillon, who is a lawyer at Morgan, Lewis and Bockius, said Trump's sons — Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump — and longtime Trump Organization executive Allen Weisselberg will run the company and keep all business matters private from the president. 

“They are going to be running it in a very professional manner,” Trump said. “They’re not going to discuss it with me. Again, I don’t have to do this.” 

Dillon said conflict of interest laws do not apply to the president of the United States, citing a 1989 amendment to Section 18 of the United States Constitution 202, which dictates these laws shall not include the president. 

“President-elect Trump wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests," Dillon said. 

In addition to stepping down from leading his businesses, President Trump has appointed Fred Fielding, counsel to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush, to oversee the ethical establishment and proceeding of the trust. 

“Mr. Fielding has been extensively involved with and approved this plan," Dillon said. "He’s here today to support the plan, and he will continue to provide guidance as the plan is implemented and as Eric, Don, along with others, take over management of the Trump organization." 

Dillon said Trump’s business empire is similar to Nelson Rockefeller’s when he served as vice president for President Gerald Ford. No one was concerned about conflicts of interest then, he said. 

Rob Schofield, director of research at North Carolina Policy Watch, said President Lyndon Johnson was perhaps rightfully criticized for owning television and radio stations — which were put under the discretion of his wife. But Trump's situation is uniquely sensitive because he has such a large system of businesses and has no record of holding public office.  

“This is made even more acute by the fact that so many of his transactions are international transactions, which then have a potential to influence foreign policy,” he said.

People on both the right and left of the political spectrum with differing ideologies have scrutinized Trump’s conflict of interest, Schofield said. 

Mitch Kokai, spokesperson for the John Locke Foundation, said even though the move is not legally required, Trump should try to quell angst over any apparent conflict of interest. 

“There is an element of concern and that is you don’t want Donald Trump to use the office of President to enrich himself,” Kokai said.

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