Trump would have to give up his castles to run the country.
Trump would have to give up his castles to run the country in a technically ethical way. Eric Urquhart / shutterstock.com

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Another morning, another dribble of vague tweets from the president elect about an issue clearly beyond his reckoning. This one is an announcement that he will announce the fact that he will leave his business "in total," by which he means he won't conduct "business operations" while in office. The possibility that Trump will in any way meaningfully remove himself from his "vast, real estate empire" is doubtful, as legal experts argue and the language of his Tweets imply.





If Trump hands his business operations over to his children—which their presence at the "major news conference" suggests—and if his children continue to serve as political advisors, then Trump isn't earnestly trying to avoid conflicts of interest. It just means he's probably going to be talking about windmills on Scottish golf courses over dinner.

And the fact that Trump is only planning to avoid conflicts of interest because he thinks its "visually important"—and not because it's "ethically responsible" or "his duty as president" or "basically unconstitutional considering the emoluments clause"—doesn't inspire confidence in the casual observer. He doesn't like the optics of a president who puts his country's policies up for sale, but he's not saying he won't do it.

Four days ago the New York Times published a (kinda late) but welcome and massive story detailing Trump's business activity around the globe. And The Atlantic has a good list of potential conflicts of interest that have been reported since the election, including meetings with his Indian business partners and his recent registry of companies in Saudi Arabia.

Since Trump works in real estate, setting up a "blind trust" for his business holdings is kind of nonsense. He owns buildings. He can see if they're crumbling or not. The only thing he can actually do to truly remove himself from these conflicts of interest, according to the Times, is to sell all of his castles, put the money in a blind trust, and then not use it to buy any more castles after that:

One option that remains available to Mr. Trump is to seek a “certificate of divestiture” from the Office of Government Ethics, which would allow him to sell his real estate holdings and other businesses with an enormous tax advantage.

The Times goes on: "But if Mr. Trump wants to do this, the money generated from the liquidation of his assets will have to be invested in 'permitted property,' which is limited to Treasury bonds or diversified mutual funds."

Quick, someone think of a way to convince Trump that it's "visually important" to sell everything he owns and tie his wealth to the health of the country's own economy.