Trump’s Children Won’t Advise Administration, Giuliani Says

  • Donald Jr., Ivanka, Eric serve on presidential transition team
  • Kushner is in a ‘different situation,’ former NYC mayor says

How a President Trump Could Avoid Conflict of Interest

Donald Trump’s three adult children who hold leadership positions in his businesses and on his presidential transition committee won’t advise their father on government matters once he takes office, said Rudy Giuliani, a top adviser for the incoming administration.

“There will have to be a wall between them with regard to government matters,” Giuliani, a vice chairman of Trump’s executive transition committee, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The billionaire’s sprawling businesses, spanning several countries, present unprecedented potential conflicts of interest for a U.S. president. The children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump, will run the Trump Organization while their father is in office, the New York-based company said Friday in an e-mailed statement.

No laws exist that require Trump to distance himself from his commercial and residential real estate businesses, including hotels, golf courses and international licensing deals. While he will be required to continue to file asset disclosures, presidents are otherwise mostly exempt from the 1978 Ethics in Government Act -- an exception derived from the belief that such rules could keep commanders-in-chief from making tough decisions.

Blind Trust

Though Trump had previously said he would place his business in a blind trust run by his children, he acknowledged in a January debate that his suggestion wouldn’t necessarily constitute a true blind trust.

Giuliani said it would be “unrealistic” to remove the children from the business and pass management to someone else.

“And, remember, they can’t work in the government because of the government rule against nepotism,” the former New York mayor said on the program. “So, you would be putting them out of work.”

To make a blind trust, Trump would need to liquidate all his assets and then appoint an independent trustee to oversee them, a process made virtually impossible by the nature of his businesses, according to Norm Eisen, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution who previously served as the Obama administration’s ethics czar.

‘Awful Message’

Still, Trump shouldn’t let his children help shape the government before they oversee his financial interests, Eisen said.

“I do not think it is wise to have the children on the transition team under these circumstances,” he said. “It sends an awful message. And I disagree with Giuliani. They should be focused on fairness to the American people, not fairness to the Trump children.”

Robert Kelner, chair of the election and political law practice group at law firm Covington & Burling LLP, said there are few conflicts-of-interest laws that apply to presidential administration teams.

“This is about appearances rather than actual legal compliance issues,” said Kelner, who is based in Washington. “Much depends on what the Trump children actually work on as part of the transition, and the policies that the transition team itself decides to adopt. For the most part, the Trump Organization’s holdings involve real estate, and very few of the things the transition would do are going to impact specific real estate holdings in any material way.”

As for Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, he’s in a “different situation,” Giuliani said, because his business interests in media and real estate are independent from the Trump Organization. Kushner is also involved with the transition team.

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