Many U.S. presidents have placed their financial holdings in a blind trust that is managed by a trustee without any input from the president. This arrangement is believed to help the president avoid any conflicts of interest between his finances and issues that come across his desk.
U.S. President Donald Trump, however, has avoided calls for him to sell his assets or place them in a blind trust, according to a report in The New York Times. Trump has noted that presidents are not legally obliged to do so.
Instead, the president has a revocable trust and the trustees are his eldest son Donald, Jr. and Allen Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer.
“I don’t see how this in the slightest bit avoids a conflict of interest,” Frederick Tansill, a trust and estates lawyer told the Times. “First it is revocable at any time, and it is his son and his chief financial officer who are running it.”
Sheri Dillon, Trump’s tax lawyer, said last month that an agreement with Trump’s trust limits the information the president can access about his company.
The Times, which says the Trump Organization declined to comment on its article, says the information about Trump’s trust was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by ProPublica.
The Trump Organization has released a list of hundreds of companies Trump has been involved with, and says he has resigned from all of them. The Trump Organization has also said it will not pursue any overseas business deals, but plans to expand within the U.S.
On another issue, the Times article says the president will benefit from his arrangement with the federal government for the Old Post Office Building in Washington, D.C., which houses his Trump International Hotel.
The lease for the building, the Times says, signed by Trump and his three oldest children “appears to prohibit a federally elected official, including the president, from benefiting from it.” However, lawyers who specialize in federal contracts say the president will benefit from the arrangement.
The Times reports that while Trump may have to do some maneuvering to avoid violating his lease, he is exempt from laws that prohibit federal employees from participating in government matters that could directly affect their own financial interests.
Representative Elijah Cummings, a Democrat from Maryland, told the Times he remains skeptical about Trump’s hotel arrangement and has called for a congressional investigation into the lease.