Trump says his sons will oversee business while he is president

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WASHINGTON, Jan 11 (Reuters) - U.S. President-elect Donald Trump said on Wednesday he is separating himself from his global business empire by transferring his assets into a trust and putting his two oldest sons in charge, an arrangement that watchdogs said was inadequate to prevent potential conflicts of interest in office.

At a news conference, Trump said he would resign from all positions overseeing hotels, golf courses and hundreds of other businesses to help ensure that he will not consciously take actions as president that would benefit him personally.

Trump, a Republican, is under pressure to distance himself from his businesses before he moves into the White House on Jan. 20. Trump says that unlike other government officials, he is not required to steer clear of conflicts of interest.

"I could actually run my business and run government at the same time. I don't like the way that looks, but I would be able to do that if I wanted to," Trump said.

Ethics experts said the arrangement did not go far enough.

"Mr. Trump's ill-advised course will precipitate scandal and corruption," said Norm Eisen, a former White House ethics adviser under Democratic President Barack Obama.

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President-elect Trump's first press conference since election win
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference in Trump Tower, Manhattan, New York, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
A member of the media waits for U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
US Vice President-elect Mike Pence speaks during a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. Donald Trump is holding his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump takes questions from members of the media during a press conference at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Trump vigorously denounced unsubstantiated reports that the Russian government has gathered potentially damaging information about his finances and conduct. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: President-elect Donald Trump arrives at a news cenference at Trump Tower on January 11, 2017 in New York City. This is Trump's first official news conference since the November elections. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump arrives to give a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. Donald Trump is holding his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump, second right, stands with son Donald Trump Jr. right, and daughter Ivanka Trump prior to a press conference at Trump Tower in New York, U.S., on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017. Trump vigorously denounced unsubstantiated reports that the Russian government has gathered potentially damaging information about his finances and conduct. Photographer: John Taggart/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Numerous files are displayed (L) as US President-elect Donald Trump gives a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. Donald Trump is holding his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump gives a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. Donald Trump is holding his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump gives a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. Donald Trump is holding his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
People watch from a balcony as US President-elect Donald Trump gives a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. Donald Trump is holding his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / Don EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a news conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York City, U.S., January 11, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
US President-elect Donald Trump Chief Strategist Steve Bannon is seen during a press conference January 11, 2017 in New York. Donald Trump is holding his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / DON EMMERT (Photo credit should read DON EMMERT/AFP/Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump along with his children Eric(L) Ivanka and Donald Jr. arrive for a press conference January 11, 2017 at Trump Tower in New York. Trump held his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
US President-elect Donald Trump speaks during a press conference January 11, 2017 at Trump Tower in New York. Trump held his first news conference in nearly six months Wednesday, amid explosive allegations over his ties to Russia, a little more than a week before his inauguration. / AFP / Timothy A. CLARY (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JANUARY 11: President-elect Donald Trump speaks at a news cenference at Trump Tower on January 11, 2017 in New York City. This is Trump's first official news conference since the November elections. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
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Trump appears to be still involved with his business while preparing to take office, saying he had turned down a $2 billion development deal in Dubai he had been offered over the weekend.

"I didn't have to turn it down because as you know I have a no-conflict situation because I'm president," he said.

"DAMAC can confirm that the discussions took place as stated in the media briefing but the proposals were declined ..," a spokesman for DAMAC, the company involved, told Reuters by email.

Sheri Dillon, a lawyer for Trump, said profits generated at Trump's hotels by foreign governments will be donated to the U.S. Treasury.

The Trump Organization will not enter into any new overseas deals while Trump is president and will only undertake domestic projects after a company ethics adviser has approved them, said Dillon, a lawyer at Morgan Lewis who focuses on tax and ethics.

Trump will only know of those deals if he hears about them through the news media, Dillon said.

Trump's daughter, Ivanka, is to have no further involvement with management authority in the group, she said. Trump has appointed her husband, Jared Kushner, to a senior advisory role in the White House.

Since Trump sold all his stocks last year, the Trump trust will hold only business assets and liquid assets such as cash, Dillon said.

Many other ethics experts, including the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, have urged Trump to completely divest or set up a blind trust for his assets. Dillon said that was not a realistic possibility and would hurt him financially.

In a blind trust, the owner does now know what the holdings are or how their assets are managed. Trump's oldest sons will be running his business, so the arrangement does not meet that standard.

Trump was aided in setting up the trust by lawyer Fred Fielding, a former White House counsel to Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush.

Remaining debt will stay in place and will be dealt with during the ordinary course of business, Dillon said.


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