Donald Trump’s aides have met with officials at the Office of Government Ethics to discuss the use of a “discretionary trust” that would allow officials in the next administration to continue to draw income from their businesses, Politico reported Wednesday.
Two anonymous sources told Politico that aides charged with establishing ethics firewalls are engaged in those conversations, although they did not know if the arrangement was intended for use by the President-elect, his family members or the high-powered executives nominated for his cabinet.
Under the “discretionary trust” model, assets that pose a potential conflict of interest are held in a trust, often overseen by a family member, and are no longer considered to belong to the elected official at all. This arrangement allows those assets to continue to produce income for the official, and it also makes no specific prohibition on the official discussing the financial holdings with the trustee.
This model is a far cry from the true blind trust that ethics experts have asked the Trump family and some of the powerful businesspeople he has named to his cabinet to implement. That system would involve transferring all of an incoming official’s investments to an independent financial manager who oversees the sale and acquisition of assets without consulting with the official.
Trump has said he will to turn management of his company over to a “blind trust” run by his two adult sons, but such an arrangement defies the definition of the term, especially since Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. sit on the White House transition team.
Legal observers told Politico that the OGE, which remains under management of President Barack Obama’s nominee Walter Shaub through 2018, was unlikely to expand approval of discretionary trusts to suit the Trump administration.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks declined to confirm whether there were discussions underway about discretionary trusts, telling Politico: “No decisions have been made. We look forward to sharing more details next month.”
The President-elect abruptly canceled a press conference that was slated for Dec. 15 in which he said he’d divulge his plans for managing his real estate empire. His team has promised he will make these announcements before he is sworn in on Jan. 20.