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Trump's plan to address conflicts of interest falls far short

Donald Trump keeps hosting business meetings and discussing multi-billion-dollar deals -- but we're not supposed to worry about his conflicts of interest.
Donald Trump holds a press conference with his VP Choice, Gov. Mike Pence, July 16, 2016. (Photo by Mark Peterson/Redux for MSNBC)
Donald Trump holds a press conference with his VP Choice, Gov. Mike Pence, July 16, 2016. 
About a month ago, Fox News' Chris Wallace asked Donald Trump about his many conflicts of interest, and the possibility of "foreign interests trying to curry favor" with the incoming president. Trump said the public has nothing to be concerned about."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," the president-elect said. For emphasis, Trump added a moment later that the deals he recently turned down were worth "probably a billion dollars."It wasn't a reassuring answer. As we discussed at the time, while Trump faced allegations about exploiting his office for financial gain, he admitted to discussing business deals -- during his busy transition process -- with a "big player," who approached Trump about a billion-dollar opportunity.At this morning's bizarre press conference, Trump's first since he encouraged Russia to commit cyber-crimes in the United States in July, the president-elect did it again.

"Now, I have to say one other thing. Over the weekend, I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great, great developer from the Middle East, Hussein Damack, a friend of mine, great guy. And I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai -- a number of deals and I turned it down."I didn't have to turn it down, because as you know, I have a no-conflict situation because I'm president, which is -- I didn't know about that until about three months ago, but it's a nice thing to have."

Got that? Trump believes it's literally impossible for him to have a conflict of interest, and to calm fears about his potential conflicts, he wants us all to know he met with a foreign developer over the weekend who discussed a multi-billion-dollar business opportunity with him.How reassuring.As for Team Trump's solution to his conflict problems -- ostensibly the point of today's press conference, NBC News reported on the solution his legal team has put together.

Trump's team formally announced at the press conference that he is relinquishing his management of the Trump Organization to his sons and that an ethics adviser will be appointed to its management team to review all new transactions.But he also will not divest or create a completely blind trust -- the solutions overwhelmingly endorsed by ethics experts to eliminate the risk that the president's assets could become ripe for corruption and influence-peddling.

NBC talked to an ethics expert who described the arrangement as untenable."This does not address the emoluments clause concerns, this does not address the conflict concerns," Kathleen Clark, an ethics specialist at University of Washington law school, said. "This is using the language of ethics without addressing the actual ethics concerns."MSNBC's Ari Melber, an attorney who tweeted throughout this morning's press conference, added, "Trump's plan reads more like a management structure to keep Trump in charge of his company, not a conflicts structure for independence."Postscript: In the final moments of the press conference, Trump said his sons will run his business operation, "I hope at the end of eight years, I'll come back and say, oh, you did a good job. Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I'll say, 'You're fired.'"In other words, it sounds like he'll have quite a bit of interest in how his family runs his business -- which is pretty much the opposite of an independent operation.