Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, accompanied by Melania Trump, Eric Trump, Donald Trump Jr., Tiffany Trump and Ivanka Trump, arrives for a ribbon cutting ceremony during the grand opening of the Trump International Hotel- Old Post Office, Oct. 26, 2016, in Washington. 
Photo by Evan Vucci/AP

Trump still doesn’t understand his conflict-of-interest problem

Donald Trump seems to realize he has a conflict-of-interest problem. What the president-elect doesn’t yet understand is how to resolve it.
President-elect Donald Trump tweeted Wednesday that he is drawing up documents that will take him “completely out” of his business operations “in order to fully focus on running the country.”

In early-morning tweets, the real-estate mogul was scant on details about how he plans to remove himself from his self-branded businesses and Trump Organization empire, but said he would hold a news conference with his children on Dec. 15 to talk about his departure.
By way of Twitter, Trump declared, “I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses. Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!”

Note, Trump believes it’s “visually important” to avoid conflicts of interest. What a curious choice of words.

Regardless, these tweets have apparently caused a stir, though I’m not sure why. We already knew Trump intended to separate himself from directly running his business – pardon me, I meant his “great business” – because he’d already committed to this during the campaign.

What’s more, the fact that the president-elect will be holding a press conference – pardon me, a “major news conference” – with his adult children suggests Trump’s operation will be turned over to his kids, which is also in line with everything we already knew.

What we have here, in other words, is Trump trying to respond to a series of conflict-of-interest controversies with … nothing. Aaron Blake joked, “The only real news in those Trump tweets is that he’ll actually be doing a press conference.”

It seems part of the problem is that Trump doesn’t understand the nature of the controversy itself. The concern is the incoming president will use his office to boost his business interests, line his pockets, and build on his vast family wealth. “My kids will oversee my business” is the wrong response to the questions.

Indeed, Trump having his adult children manage his private-sector operations and investments isn’t the answer to the controversy; it’s at the core of the controversy.

As president, Trump should have a blind trust – an independent manager to oversee his holdings while he governs behind a veil of ignorance. Instead, Trump appears content to leave his business in the hands of kids, who happen to be some of his closest advisors, and who happen to be sitting in on meetings with foreign leaders and prospective cabinet secretaries.

If the president-elect thinks he’s making his conflict-of-interest problem go away, he may be surprised to learn he’s apparently making it worse.