The scope of President-elect Donald Trump’s business entanglements are unprecedented for a man about to assume the world’s most powerful office. His team has so far been vague as to how Trump will go about extricating himself from his business empire to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest while he serves in the government.
Two-thirds of Americans think Trump must do just that, according to a Bloomberg News poll conducted between Dec. 2-5. Sixty-seven percent of those questioned said Trump must choose between being president and being a businessman. Twenty-seven percent said he doesn’t need to choose.
The president-elect is expected to appear with his adult children at a press conference next week to give more details on how he’ll handle his dual responsibilities. He announced on Twitter he plans to leave his “great business in total to fully focus on running the country,” but his campaign has not been forthcoming with more details on how that will be done. It’s also unknown the true extent of Trump’s businesses interests given his refusal to release his tax returns.
Those polled didn’t think it was necessary for Trump to completely sell his businesses “so that neither he nor his family could potentially profit from actions he takes as president.” Sixty-nine percent thought such action would go “too far,” while 26 percent thought he should sell his businesses.
It is expected that Trump will leave business responsibilities to his adult children, although reports have indicated his daughter Ivanka Trump intends to move to Washington, D.C. and could take on the role of “advocate,” similar to the traditional role played by the first lady. She, along with his sons, have been playing an active role in Trump’s transition.
Ivanka’s own businesses also present potential conflicts of interest, demonstrated by her presence in official meetings between her father and foreign leaders. Ivanka Trump sat in on a meeting between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the same time her apparel business is finalizing a deal that could involve a Japanese state-sponsored bank.
A plurality of respondents — 29 percent — of the Bloomberg poll reported being “very skeptical” that Trump’s interactions with foreign leaders “will put the nation’s best interest ahead of the interest of his companies and family.” Twenty-seven percent said they were “very confident” Trump could put U.S. interests ahead of his own personal enrichment.
Even if Trump removes himself entirely from his businesses, he doesn’t plan to abandon the reality television show that boosted his public profile, The Apprentice. Variety reported Thursday Trump plans to stay on as executive producer of the NBC show that will resume next year after a two-year break and will be hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger. In maintaining his ties with the show, Trump will collect a profit Variety estimates will be at least $10,000 per episode.
Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said the president-elect will work on the show in his “spare time.”