It’s no secret that Donald Trump’s business acumen has played a major role in the 2016 presidential campaign.
After all, his success in the business world is one of the main reasons why his legion of devout followers flocked to him in the first place:
Ask a Trump supporter why they support him and they'll either say 1. "He speaks his mind" or 2. "He's a businessman". ? never anything else.
— Katarina (@itskatarinaa) June 4, 2016
Trump’s business dealings have even impacted the campaign at times, from:
- His curiously-timed trip to Scotland last month to reopen a golf course; to
- His multiple campaign trips to promote the soon-to-open luxury hotel in Washington, D.C.; to
- The multiple lawsuits surrounding his now-defunct Trump University; and even
- His decision not to release his tax returns before the election.
So what will become of Trump’s the multi-billion dollar empire should the American people choose him as the 45th President of the United States on November 8th?
The answer is still largely unknown.
When first asked about the future of his business empire during a GOP primary debate last January, Trump told voters that he would put the business in a blind trust and hand the reins over to his children so he could focus solely on being president:
Trump say he'd turn over his business to kids if elected. "Run the company, kids. Have a good time."
— Todd J. Gillman (@toddgillman) January 15, 2016
He restated that sentiment in a recent interview with The Wall Street Journal, saying:
“I wouldn’t mind a blind trust. I would be doing one thing. My total focus would be on making this country great again. I wouldn’t even think about the company.”
In some ways, Trump has already followed through, having long ago surrendered control of various parts of his empire to three of his adult children, Donald Jr., Eric, and Ivanka.
But as the WSJ notes, the size and makeup of the Trump Organization — whose sole owner is Trump — make it difficult for the GOP candidate to simply separate himself through a blind trust. The company’s global reach could also have an impact on how his administration deals with foreign governments.
Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who previously served as the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told the WSJ:
“Trump’s empire would pose unprecedented conflicts of interest due to the size of its holdings, privately held nature of the family-run business, and concentration in one industry.
A blind trust would never work in Trump’s case, because his assets are known, not blind, and children aren’t independent trustees.”
Nor is Trump the only candidate in the race likely to be bogged down by conflict-of-interest issues this fall. Democrat Hillary Clinton has problems of her own stemming back to her family’s charitable foundation and its various donations from foreign countries.
Clinton has already taken actions to separate herself from the Clinton Foundation, stepping down from the foundation’s board just days before launching her presidential campaign. Former President Bill Clinton also vowed to change its mission and structure if his wife wins in November.