Donald Trump’s campaign says figuring out how to transfer the family real estate business to his children is a top priority. In a statement to CBS News, the campaign said: “We are in the process of vetting various structures with the goal of the immediate transfer of management of the Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, as well as a team of highly skilled executives.”
The Trump Organization is a privately held-company that has always answered to him and not shareholders. But with his shareholders now the American people, Trump’s massive portfolio presents unprecedented conflicts of interest, reports CBS News correspondent Julianna Goldman.
As a candidate last December, Trump was asked about Turkey’s role in the fight against ISIS and began by saying, “I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul, and it’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers,” he said in a radio interview.
As president-elect, that concession is all the more striking given his 62 properties at home and around the world bearing his name.
While there are rules to prevent conflicts of interest for government officials, they don’t apply to the president and vice president who have traditionally put investments in a blind trust.
Asked about this in January, Trump said he’d tap his children.
“So you’ll put your assets in a blind trust?” Maria Bartiromo of Fox News asked.
“I would put it in a blind trust. Well, I don’t know if it’s a blind trust if Ivanka, Don and Eric run it,” Trump responded. “But is that a blind trust? I don’t know. But I would probably have my children run it with my executives and I wouldn’t ever be involved because I wouldn’t care about anything but our country -- anything.”
Now with his children involved in the transition, ethics watchdogs say the set-up doesn’t wall off the Trump Organization from the Trump administration.
“A real blind trust would be one where he picked a third party, independent third party, to manage his investments. He would not know what’s going on there,” said Larry Noble, former general counsel at the Federal Election Commission.
“What that is, is just turning your business interests over to your family, which is very close to you, which has been involved in your campaign, who you say are your big advisers,” Noble added.
The arrangement doesn’t solve conflicts like Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, one of his main lenders.
According to his financial disclosures, he owes the bank more than $300 million in mortgages. The bank is currently in multi-billion dollar negotiations with the Justice Department to settle a fine for trading in toxic mortgages in the run-up to the financial crisis. The talks could last into the next administration.
Even the tenants in his buildings pose a conflict, like the state-run Chinese bank on the 20th floor of Trump Tower.
“I have tenants from China. I have the biggest bank in the world from China paying me rent,” Trump said at a Florida rally in July.
Closer to home there is the Trump Old Post Office hotel where the landlord is the federal government, which Trump will now head.
“With the notable exception of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, this is the most coveted piece of real estate in Washington, D.C.,” he said at the hotel opening.
The General Services Administration oversees the land and Trump’s lease. They say there will be a plan in place, but nothing has started. Trump will be appointing its new head -- and is able to renegotiate that lease under certain conditions.