WASHINGTON DC, United States – US President-elect Donald Trump said Saturday, December 24, he intends to dissolve his controversial philanthropic foundation to avoid conflicts of interest, but the move was quickly complicated by an ongoing legal probe.
Trump’s sprawling portfolio of US and overseas business interests and holdings – as well as his Donald J Trump Foundation – have come under increased scrutiny in the weeks since his election. The shuttering of his charity would be his first big step to avoid a brewing storm of potential conflicts of interest.
His private foundation has been at the center of several controversies – including how much money he has actually given it – and is under investigation by New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman.
In a statement to US media on Saturday afternoon, December 24, the attorney general’s office said Trump could not yet close the foundation.
“The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete,” Schneiderman spokeswoman Amy Spitalnick said.
Trump’s transition team said he had directed his counsel to take the necessary steps to close the foundation.
“The foundation has done enormous good works over the years in contributing millions of dollars to countless worthy groups, including supporting veterans, law enforcement officers and children,” Trump said in a statement.
“However, to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as president I have decided to continue to pursue my strong interest in philanthropy in other ways.”
Trump family ethics
A Washington Post investigation in June said Trump had given just a fraction of the money he’d promised to charity, and it was only after public pressure that he made good on a pledge to cough up $1 million to a nonprofit group for veterans.
His children have also come under the spotlight for their charitable enterprises.
Trump’s transition team this week denied a report that his sons were seeking donations of up to $1 million in exchange for possible post-inauguration access.
The Center for Public Integrity, an award-winning group that addresses ethics and other policy issues, said a nonprofit foundation was set up, making discreet potential pay-for-play possible.
Daughter Ivanka Trump was forced to scrap a charity auction for coffee with her, after ethics experts said it appeared bidders could pay for special access to the Trump family.
Critics say Trump will run into conflicts unless he fully divests himself of all his business and charitable interests.
Trump himself savaged his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton during the campaign over her and her husband Bill Clinton’s foundation, calling it a “criminal enterprise.”
But his move on the foundation front comes amid intense criticism of Trump’s ethics and transparency choices on the way into the White House.
While his business interests may be broader than those of other presidents, Trump at times has seemed to promise to disclose, or pledge to divest, without delivering on pledges.
Placing assets in a blind trust has been the standard for previous American presidents.
Critics say the president-elect’s Trump Organization — which has a network of hotels, golf clubs and residences across the globe — could expose him to conflicts of interest on a myriad of policies, ranging from tax reform to foreign policy.
Trump has pledged to disclose his tax returns but has yet to follow through. He says they are being audited — but officials say that does not stop anyone from releasing them.
On December 15 Trump was scheduled to hold a news conference to announce plans for his business during his four-year term in office, but it was postponed to an undetermined date in January.
So far the 70-year-old billionaire has said only that his two adult sons, Donald Jr and Eric, would take over and that the company would do no new deals while he serves as president. – Rappler.com