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Trump’s business ties to be gone, but can they be forgotten?

Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, seen on

Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, seen on July 19, 2016, are part of their father's transition team and also are running his businesses, raising questions about conflicts of interest. Credit: Getty Images North America / Joe Raedle

Conflict resolution? The jury’s out

Donald Trump said Wednesday he’s come up with a solution that will ensure that as president he will “in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses.”

The details won’t be revealed until a Dec. 15 news conference, but senior Trump adviser Sean Spicer said the basic idea is to transfer control of his businesses to his children, reports Newsday’s Emily Ngo.

“Legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations,” Trump tweeted.

So what’s the problem? Here are, potentially, a few:

It’s unclear whether the president-elect was giving up ownership stakes or just operational control.

Donald Jr., Eric and Ivanka Trump are key advisers in the transition — even joining conversations with foreign leaders — and are expected to remain close to their father when he becomes president.

Trump Enterprises could benefit from decisions from foreign governments and businesses tied to them, raising questions about improper influence. Trump’s new Washington hotel is a building leased from the federal government.

Sale or no sale

The Office of Government Ethics said it had told Trump’s lawyers that only a divestiture — a sell-off of his assets — would resolve ethical concerns, The New York Times reported.

A peculiar series of Twitter messages from the agency suggested, on the surface, that Trump will do just that. “We told your counsel we’d sing your praises if you divested, we meant it,” one said.

But an OGE statement later said, “We don’t know the details of their plan.” Some concluded the tweets were sarcasm — a historically buttoned-up agency going rogue at the dawn of the Trump era.

Trump keeps corruption-buster

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara met with Trump Wednesday and said the president-elect agreed he should stay in his job, where he has secured convictions for insider trading and of corrupt officials, including Democratic and Republican leaders in the New York State Legislature.

Bharara said he told the president-elect that the federal prosecutors’ office in the Southern District of New York would continue to conduct its work “independently, without fear or favor.”

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said he spoke with Trump about Bharara and “I am glad they met and am glad Preet is staying on.” See Emily Ngo and John Riley’s story for Newsday.

Mnuchin’s recipe for economy

Treasury Secretary-nominee Steven Mnuchin outlined an economic agenda that he said would nearly double the nation’s growth rate.

How? With tax cuts for businesses and the middle class, fewer regulations, infrastructure investment and bilateral trade deals, he said on CNBC Wednesday.

The rich won’t get a big cut in their overall tax bills, he asserted. “Any tax cuts we have for the upper class will be offset by less deductions that will pay for it,” said the former Goldman Sachs partner.

Cash and Carrier

There was more than Trump’s persuasion powers and a promise of business-friendlier policies behind the agreement by Carrier, which makes heating and cooling equipment, to keep more than 1,000 jobs in Indiana instead of sending the work to Mexico.

Thanks to Vice President-elect Mike Pence, who is still governor of Indiana, that state came through with incentives, including $700,000 in tax breaks — “an important consideration,” according to a Carrier statement.

Another Indiana official said parent company United Technologies also wants to protect its roughly $6.7 billion in federal contracts.

Pelosi beats back challenge

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) won re-election to another term as House minority leader, beating back a challenge by members of her caucus, who argued the election results showed a need for change.

Pelosi defeated Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) 134-63. Ryan’s losing effort was supported by Nassau Rep. Kathleen Rice. Newsday’s Tom Brune reports Pelosi could react by changing Rice’s committee assignments.

Sarah Palin to run VA?

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, a tea party favorite, is under consideration for secretary of veterans affairs, ABC News reported.

The department is the largest government agency with more than 300,000 federal employees and a budget of $182 billion for 2017. Another contender to lead it is former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown. Both Palin, the GOP’s 2008 vice-presidential candidate, and Brown were early Trump supporters.

What else is happening

  • Trump is considering Goldman Sachs President Gary Cohn for a senior job, such as director of the Office of Management and Budget, sources told Politico. Two Goldman alumni — Mnuchin and chief of staff Steve Bannon — are already on board.
  • Four candidates are still in the running for secretary of state, said transition communications director Jason Miller. He didn’t say who, but Mitt Romney and Rudy Giuliani are presumed to be among them.
  • The choices so far of Washington and Wall Street insiders suggest than rather than “drain the swamp,” as Trump’s campaign promised, he’s diving right in, The Associated Press says.
  • Trump’s call to jail and strip citizenship from flag-burners is at odds with what he told CBS talk-show host David Letterman in January 2015. When Letterman opined that “this country is far greater than that symbol, and that symbol is standing for freedom of expression, Trump replied: “Sure. You’re 100% right.” (Video here.)
  • Linda McMahon, former president of World Wrestling Entertainment, met with Trump Wednesday. Asked if she was offered a position, she told reporters to “stay tuned.”
  • Melania Trump’s lawyers have warned entrepreneurs in her native Slovenia to stop using her name and likeness to sell products such as “Melania cakes.”

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