The head of the Office of Government Ethics (OGE) on Wednesday slammed President-elect Donald Trump’s plan to separate himself from his business interests, calling it “wholly inadequate” in resolving potential conflicts of interest.
“The plan the [president-elect] has announced doesn’t meet the standards that the best of his nominees are meeting and that every president in the last four decades have met,” OGE Director Walter Shaub said during a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington.
Shaub, an Obama appointee, said the only way for Trump to avoid conflicts between his business empire and the presidency is to sell his assets and place them in a blind trust.
The plan Trump rolled out Wednesday falls short of that standard.
“We can’t risk the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for professional profit,” he said.
Trump announced Wednesday that he is handing control of his business empire to his two adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, and placing his assets into a trust.
“They are not going to discuss [the business] with me,” Trump said of his sons. “Again, I don’t have to do this. They’re not going to discuss it with me.”
But Trump said he would not be selling his company or real estate holdings.
Sheri Dillon, an attorney for the president-elect, argued it would be impossible for him to sell off his assets, saying the process would create even more possible conflicts.
Shaub recognized divesting himself from his business holdings “could be costly” for Trump, but called it a necessary step for any president to take.
“No, I don’t think divestiture is too high a price to be president of the United States of America,” he said.
Trump said the steps he undertook were purely voluntary because a president cannot have a conflict of interest. Shaub said that assertion is “quite obviously not true.”
“I think the most charitable way to understand such statements is that they are referring to a particular conflict-of-interest law that does not apply to the president,” he said.
He added that “common sense dictates that the president can of course have very real conflicts of interests.”
Pete Schroeder contributed. (The Hill)