11:10 GMT +310 December 2018
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    Trump Says He'll Dissolve Charitable Foundation to Avoid Conflicts of Interest

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    President-elect Donald Trump said he would dissolve the Trump Foundation to avoid conflicts of interest in a statement December 24.

    The charitable foundation will be shut down "to avoid even the appearance of any conflict with my role as President," the statement said.

    He touted the good works of the foundation over the years in the statement, saying it had contributed "millions of dollars to countless worthy groups, including supporting veterans, law enforcement officers and children."

    The statement did not offer a timeline for the dismantling of the foundation, but it did say his lawyers have been instructed to take the necessary steps.

    It is not clear when the foundation could be shut down, as it is currently under investigation by the New York Attorney General's Office for illegal fundraising practices. "The Trump Foundation is still under investigation by this office and cannot legally dissolve until that investigation is complete," said Amy Spitalnick, the office's press secretary, the New York Times reported.

    Trump had not donated to the foundation since 2008, though Trump associates have. Trump has been accused of using foundation money to pay for personal legal settlements and on gifts and trinkets, as well as to support political groups, the Guardian reports. Trump himself paid a fine to the IRS for an illegal campaign contribution in Florida.

    The Trump Foundation has no paid employees and a board of five, four of whom are Trump or his children, the Boston Globe reports. They all work 30 minutes per week, according to documents given to the IRS. The foundation reported assets of $1.12 million to the IRS in 2015, according to CNN.

    Trump has repeatedly insisted that a president doesn't have conflicts of interest and that there is no legal obligation for him to disentangle himself from the multiple legal, commercial and charitable arms of his businesses. However, as his January 20 inauguration date approaches, Trump and his family seem to be bending to pressure to dissociate themselves from at least some potential conflicts. Earlier this week, Trump's oldest son, Eric Trump, said he was suspending the charitable foundation established in his name in 2007 after questions were raised about whether donors could get special access to the president elect.

    His father criticized the complaints that led to the closure.

    Eric Trump, who along with his brother Donald Junior, will be running the Trump Organization for his father, has also said that he will no longer participate in any business or policy meetings organized by his father as he prepared to move into the White House, the New York Times reports.

    "I'll have no role in government," he said, describing the split as a division of "church and state."

    However, many have pointed out that having one's children run one's business is not a true "blind trust" and will do little to separate Trump the president from Trump the profit-seeker. 

    Donald Trump said Saturday that he was "very proud" of the Trump Foundation's work, but "because I will be devoting so much time and energy to the Presidency and solving the many problems facing our country and the world, I don't want to allow good work to be associated with a possible conflict of interest."

    Watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), which is linked with supporters of Democratic Presidential Nominee Hillary Clinton, said the announcement that the Trump Foundation will be shut down is "a necessary first step for the incoming administration to avoid massive ethics problems, but it does not come close to ending the story."

    "The Foundation's past instances of wrongdoing must be fully investigated and President-elect Trump must sell his businesses and take comprehensive steps to prevent conflicts of interest for him and his administration. If Donald Trump truly wants to ‘drain the swamp' and usher in a new level of respectability for the government, there are many serious issues that must be resolved and many business and financial interests that must be disclosed — and not just on Christmas Eve when most of America isn't watching," CREW said in a statement.

    The many other potential conflicts of interest the president-elect's business holdings present are being reviewed, Alan Garten, the Trump Organization's general counsel, told CNN December 24. The company is "continuing to reevaluate various transactions that we're involved in" and "measures are being taken to sort of comply with all the conflict laws," he said.

    Trump has said that no new deals will be made while he is in office. According to the New York Times, other measures being taken to avoid conflicts of interest or the appearance of impropriety include exploring options for the Ivanka Trump brand to be monitored to block inappropriate contacts with the government, shutting down large-scale construction work in a number of foreign countries and settling labor disputes at some Trump hotels.

    There have already been complaints that visiting foreign delegations will feel pressured to stay in Trump's hotel in Washington, DC. 

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    Tags:
    conflict of interest, fundraising, illegal fundraising, investigation, dissolve, Trump Organization, Donald J. Trump Foundation, Trump Foundation, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump, Donald Trump, United States
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