NEW YORK — U.S. President-elect Donald Trump vowed on Wednesday to step back from running his global business empire to avoid conflicts of interest, as concern over his dual role mounts ahead of the Republican’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Trump, a real estate magnate who owns hotels and golf resorts from Panama to Scotland, said he will spell out at a Dec. 15 news conference how he will separate himself “in total” from his worldwide business holdings, which include a winery, modeling agency, and a range of other businesses.
After Trump won the Nov. 8 election, his company, the Trump Organization, had said it was looking at new business structures with the goal of transferring control to Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump – three of his adult children who are involved with the company.
Trump gave few details in a series of early morning tweets on Wednesday, but said “legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations” and said his children will attend the news conference. He did not say what the planned change might mean for ownership of his businesses.
His children are also on the executive committee of his White House transition team. His daughter Ivanka joined a telephone call his father had with Argentine President Mauricio Macri earlier this month and attended a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, raising concerns about possible conflicts of interests.
A brand name around the globe, Trump had previously argued that he had no need to separate himself from the Trump Organization, which includes a hotel down the street from the White House, a Manhattan tower where he lives and is running his transition to office, and a New Jersey golf course where he interviewed cabinet candidates earlier this month.
Trump said on Wednesday he is not required by law to alter his relationship with his business, but added: “I feel it is visually important, as president, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”
As the Republican heads toward taking over the White House from President Barack Obama, scrutiny of potential conflicts has grown. Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill called for hearings on the issue.
Rules on conflict of interest for executive branch employees do not apply to the president, but Trump will be bound by bribery laws, disclosure requirements and a section of the U.S. Constitution that prohibits elected officials from taking gifts from foreign governments.
The nonpartisan Office of Government Ethics said in a statement it applauded Trump’s aims, and recommended Trump completely divest his holdings rather that transfer control.
“As we discussed with your counsel, divestiture is the way to resolve these conflicts,” the office tweeted.
Wall Street picks
Trump, a former reality TV star, has spend much of the last few weeks setting up his new cabinet and interviewing candidates for top jobs in his administration.
On Wednesday, Trump said he will nominate his chief campaign fundraiser Steven Mnuchin to lead the U.S. Treasury. Mnuchin said the administration would make tax reform and trade pact overhauls top priorities as it seeks a sustained pace of 3 percent to 4 percent economic growth.
Mnuchin, a former Goldman Sachs banker, also signaled a desire to remove U.S. mortgage-finance companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac from government ownership, a move that could have wide-ranging ramifications for how Americans pay for their homes, and said banking regulations should be eased to spur lending.
Trump named Wilbur Ross, a billionaire known for his investments in distressed industries, as his nominee for commerce secretary. Both nominees will require confirmation by the U.S. Senate.
Trump is also considering Goldman Sachs President and Chief Operating Officer Gary Cohn, a former commodities trader, to head his White House budget office or to fill another position, a Trump transition official said.
The economic picks were praised by the Business Roundtable, a group that represents America’s largest corporations.
But Democratic senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren called Mnuchin “just another Wall Street insider.”
“That is not the type of change that Donald Trump promised to bring to Washington – that is hypocrisy at its worst,” Sanders and Warren said in a joint statement.
Trump had pledged during his campaign to “drain the swamp” in Washington. A spokesman said giving top economic jobs to Wall Street figures was not inconsistent with that vow.
“You want some people that are insiders and understand the system and some outsiders that are creative thinkers, out-of-the-box thinkers and disruptors,” said Anthony Scaramucci, an asset manager who is on Trump’s transition committee.
Trump is also working to fill out his foreign policy team, but no decision appeared imminent on who the next secretary of state will be.
He met on Wednesday with Linda McMahon, co-founder of wrestling empire WWE. McMahon told reporters that she discussed job creation and the Small Business Administration with Trump, and said “Stay tuned!” about whether she would join the administration.
On Thursday, Trump will travel to Indiana to formally announce a deal he reached with United Technologies Corp to keep close to 1,000 jobs at its Carrier Corp air conditioner plant in Indianapolis rather than shifting them to Mexico.
Trump and his running-mate Mike Pence, the governor of Indiana, had railed against Carrier on the campaign trail, using the company’s outsourcing move as an example of how trade agreements hurt American workers.