The Cable

Trump: ‘The President Can’t Have a Conflict of Interest’

The president-elect told reporters from the New York Times that, in theory, he could run the country and keep signing his company's checks.

conflict

At a Tuesday lunch with the New York Times, President-elect Donald Trump said several things. He said that Breitbart is “just a publication.” He said that his son-in-law could make peace between Israelis and Palestinians. And, when asked about whether or not his past (or present) business activity constitutes a conflict of interest, he said, “The law’s totally on my side. The president can’t have a conflict of interest.”

This Silvio Berlucsoni-esque remark comes after revelations that Trump, in a meeting days after his election, encouraged British politician Nigel Farage to oppose a wind farm planned near one of his Scottish golf courses (Trump, who believes it will ruin the view, had previously taken the issue, unsuccessfully, to the highest court in Britain). So, too, does it follow a meeting between the president-elect and business partners from India, as well as the revelation by foreign diplomats that they intend to stay at Trump’s new hotel in Washington, D.C. to curry favor with the president-elect.

The Emoluments Clause of the U.S. Constitution says “no person holding any office of profit or trust” shall “accept of any present, emolument, office or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince or foreign state” unless requested by Congress. Legal experts believe this includes corporations owned by or under the control of foreign governments, and would therefore apply to several of Trump’s business dealings.

At a call with reporters earlier on Tuesday, Trump spokesperson Jason Miller, when asked whether Trump was still involved in his business, said, “I’ll go ahead and let the president-elect speak for that directly.”

At the New York Times meeting, Trump said that he could theoretically continue to run his business and the country, but that he will be turning operations over to his adult children. Trump also said, however, that conflict of interest allegations are such that “if it were up to some people, I would never, ever see my daughter Ivanka again.” He won’t sell his company because that would be difficult, “because I have real estate.” And besides, his D.C. hotel is “probably a more valuable asset than it was before.” But anyway, his “company’s so unimportant to me relative to what I’m doing.”

Which, just so we’re all clear, is transitioning to be president of the United States.

Photo credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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