President-elect Donald Trump shrugged off rising concerns Tuesday about the potential conflicts-of-interest between his ongoing participation in the Trump Organization and his future as president, saying the president “can’t have a conflict of interest” and that the law is “totally” on his side.
Trump, in an interview with the New York Times, suggested he could continue to run his company from the White House “in theory” because “there’s never been a case like this” – though he added he would like to “do something” to address the ethical questions involved. At the same time, he said that while he could continue to sign checks at the company, he is “phasing that out now,” and handing those responsibilities over to his children.
While Trump has said he would turn over the operations of his company to his children as he took on the presidency, experts have said that was not enough separation between him and the company and that at least a blind trust, in which neither he nor his children would have direct control, would have to be set up. Trump, in the interview, said he had not realized there was no legal requirement for such a trust.
“I’d assumed that you’d have to set up some type of trust or whatever and you don’t,” Trump said, according to a tweet from New York Times reporter Maggie Haberman, who shared details of the interview as it happened.
Trump downplayed several other concerns about the entanglements between his transition work and his business, acknowledging that his hotel in downtown Washington, has likely gone up in value since his election and saying he “might have” brought up the issue of offshore wind farms he believes will spoil the view from one of his Scottish golf courses during a meeting with British politician Nigel Farage.
The wide-ranging interview, Trump’s first on-the-record sit down with a print media publication since the election, saw him affirm the idea he will not seek criminal investigations into Hillary Clinton‘s private email server or the Clinton Foundation.
Trump also seemed to reverse himself on the issue of climate change, saying he believes there is “some connectivity” between human activity and rising global temperatures. Asked if he plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accords, he said he is keeping “an open mind to it.”
Trump’s answers were posted on Twitter by Haberman and another New York Times reporter, Mike Grynbaum.
On the policy front, Trump released a video late Monday in which he said his transition to power, which has at times been chaotic, “is working very smoothly, efficiently and effectively.”
He outlined a series of executive actions in the video that he said he intends to take on his first day in office: issuing notification of intent to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement; canceling restrictions on energy production; putting in place a rule that two regulations must be eliminated for every new one enacted; ordering a plan to protect U.S. infrastructure from cyberattacks and other forms of attack; directing the Labor Department to investigate “abuses of visa programs that undercut the American worker”; and imposing a five-year ban on executive officials becoming lobbyists.
Notably missing from the actions were some of his most prominent campaign promises, such as building a wall along the U.S.-Mexican border to keep out illegal immigrants and developing an early plan to confront the Islamic State terrorist group.
Though Trump’s first five picks for top jobs in his administration have all been white men, transition officials insisted Monday that the team he ultimately puts together will represent a cross-section of America.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller told reporters on a conference call that the president-elect met with a “high-caliber and broad and diverse group” of job seekers and advisers in recent days and predicted that the top rungs of the executive branch that Trump assembles in the coming weeks “will be very broad and diverse, both with the Cabinet and the administration.”
That point was echoed by Conway, who said that assuring diversity – both in backgrounds and political philosophy – is a priority for Trump.
“And diversity means meeting with people across the aisle who are traditionally more Democratic, who are coming together and wanting to offer him advice, perhaps vie for a spot in his Cabinet,” Conway said. “But willing to give him counsel and willing to share experiences and have candid conversations about their views and their backgrounds.”
The Trump aides were seeking to dismiss speculation that the parade of people summoned by the president-elect – which has included women, nonwhites and erstwhile political foes – has been merely for show.
That skepticism comes in the aftermath of a brutal presidential campaign that was punctuated by frequent incidents in which Trump said and did things that offended women, Latinos and Muslims, while drawing support from white nationalist groups.
Exit polls suggest that Trump owes his victory to white voters, of whom 58 percent supported him. By comparison, he won only 8 percent of African American voters, and 29 percent each of Hispanics and Asian Americans, the exit polls showed.