President-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday that he’s leaving his business empire to focus on being the nation’s 45th president, bowing to pressure to avoid potential conflicts of interest between governing and profiting from the private sector.
“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,” he tweeted in a series of missives sent before dawn. “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.”
Trump did not provide any details about how he planned to separate from his businesses, though he said legal documents were being prepared. He has previously said that he’d leave his business operations to his three eldest children — Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka.
Ethics experts have pushed for Trump to fully exit the ownership of his businesses using a blind trust or equivalent arrangement.
“Otherwise he will have a personal financial interest in his businesses that will sometimes conflict with the public interest and constantly raise questions,” Norman Eisen, President Barack Obama’s chief ethics lawyer, and Richard Painter, who held the same post for President George W. Bush, said in a joint statement Wednesday.
Trump said legal documents are “being crafted which take me completely out of business operations,” he added, saying the presidency is “a far more important task!”
Trump’s sprawling business empire is unprecedented for a sitting president, as is the complexity and opaqueness of his financial holdings. He refused to release his taxes during the campaign, citing an ongoing audit, and will be under no legal obligation to do so in the White House.
Trump owns golf clubs, office towers and other properties in several countries. He holds ownership stakes in more than 500 companies. He has struck licensing deals for use of his name on hotels and other buildings around the world and has been landing new business in the Middle East, India and South America.
Reince Priebus, Trump’s incoming White House chief of staff, was vague Wednesday in describing how the president-elect planned to separate himself from his businesses, saying “that’ll all be worked out.”
Meanwhile, former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin, Trump’s former campaign finance director, confirmed that Trump has picked him as treasury secretary and that billionaire investor Wilbur Ross has been chosen for commerce secretary.
Trump is tapping conservatives with deep ties to Washington and Wall Street to fill out key Cabinet roles as he continues to deliberate over his secretary of state.
This article was updated to include analysis of Trump’s pledge to step back from the business.