WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 (UPI) — President-elect Donald Trump canceled a press conference planned for later this week, delaying an announcement of his plans to avoid a plethora of conflicts of interest between his businesses and the presidency.
Trump announced Monday that the scheduled Dec. 15 press conference, his first since June, was being put off until January so he can continue to focus on filling his cabinet and administration.
In a series of tweets on Nov. 30, Trump said he would hold a press conference in New York with his children to outline arrangements for him to separate himself from his businesses in order to focus on the presidency. Trump’s transition team said the extra time is needed because of the size and spread of the president-elect’s businesses.
“With so many iconic properties and successful entities, moving the announcement to January ensures the legal team has ample time to ensure the proper protocols are put in place so his sole focus will remain on the country and achieving his ambitious agenda,” Sean Spicer, spokesman for the Republican National Committee, said in a statement.
Bloomberg estimates Trump has about $3.6 billion in assets and $630 million of debt held in more than 500 businesses, which link him to other companies and governments in at least 20 countries.
There is no legal requirement for a president to disassociate or divest of business ventures when taking office, but traditionally presidents and vice presidents separate themselves to prevent the image or actual crossing of responsibilities. Certain other requirements do, however, prohibit income and gifts from foreign governments.
Conflicts of interest surround the family already, however, as Trump’s children have met with business and political leaders from around the world several times since the election. Even Trump’s properties may pose problems, such as his new hotel in Washington — opened during the presidential election — which is housed in the Old Post Office. The lease Trump signed with the federal government to turn it into a hotel bars elected officials from its operation.
A new date for the press conference was not announced Monday, but it is likely to occur before Trump’s inauguration on Jan. 20.
Ethics lawyers for President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush, as well as a wide range of critics, have suggested Trump may be trying to avoid separating from his businesses, but many acknowledge it is a complicated proposition.
“Let’s hope he takes the additional time to do the right thing, follow every president for the past four decades, and divest into a blind trust or the equivalent,” said Norm Eisen, one of Obama’s top ethics attorneys.