Government ethics office not involved in Trump's business plan

A top government ethics watchdog says that it is not involved in President-elect Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpSenate advances public lands bill in late-night vote Warren, Democrats urge Trump to back down from veto threat over changing Confederate-named bases Esper orders ‘After Action Review’ of National Guard’s role in protests MORE’s forthcoming plan to step back from his businesses.

The Office of Government Ethics (OGE) said in a letter to Sen. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperSenate subcommittee: IRS should increase oversight of tax-prep companies in Free File program Senate report: Chinese telecom firms operated in US without proper oversight for decades House Judiciary seeks briefing on Trump order to slash regs to assist the economy MORE (D-Del.) this week that it had offered to assist Trump in addressing his conflicts of interest but he has not taken them up on the offer.

“The President-elect has indicated publicly that he will announce a plan for resolving his conflicts of interest on December 15, 2016. Although OGE offered to provide recommendations, OGE has not been involved in developing that plan,” the office wrote in the letter.


Trump was expected to hold a press conference this week to detail how he would untangle himself from his vast business network.

However, adviser Kellyanne Conway said the press conference would be delayed until next month because of “how convoluted and complex many of these business holdings are.”

The move also pushes the press conference until after the Electoral College votes on making Trump’s victory official.

Trump said last month that he will turn over control of the Trump Organization to his three oldest children.

The plan come under criticism from Democrats and top watchdogs, who note Trump’s children are also on his transition team. They add the plan could result in the businesses having special access to the Trump administration.

Asked by Carper if Trump’s plan would qualify as a “blind trust” under the Ethics in Government Act, the ethics office indicated it would not.

“The Ethics in Government Act prescribes specific requirements for establishing a qualified blind trust. Transferring operational control of a company to one’s children would not constitute the establishment of a qualified blind trust, nor would it eliminate conflicts of interest under federal law regulating conflicts of interests.”

OGE specified that it “does not have any independent knowledge of facts” about Trump’s plans for the Trump Organization.

The OGE noted that while a provision in federal law governing financial conflicts doesn’t apply to the president, that it has been the “consistent policy” of the White House to act like it does.

“OGE’s view is that a President should comply with this law by divesting conflicting assets, establishing a qualified blind trust, or both,” the office said. But while “every President in modern times has adopted OGE’s recommended approach, OGE has no power to require adherence to this tradition.”

Democrats have hounded Trump over his financial ties for months, arguing he needs to proactively eliminate potential conflicts of interest.

Nearly two-dozen Senate Democrats, led by Carper, also sent Trump a letter on Tuesday calling on the real estate mogul to shed his business ties and put his assets in a blind trust.

Democrats have also been critical of Trump for refusing to release his tax returns, including a failed effort to pass legislation requiring the step.

According to the OGE, Trump could go until May 15, 2018 before he releases a financial disclosure. The office notes that while most presidents voluntarily file a report during their first year, it doesn’t know if Trump will follow that plan.

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