George W. Bush's ethics lawyer criticizes Trump business plan
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The former chief White House ethics lawyer under then-President George W. Bush is criticizing President-elect Donald Trump's plan to hand off control of his businesses, saying it won't eliminate conflicts of interest.

"Mr. Trump will simply turn management of the businesses over to a trustee chosen by him, and to two of his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric. This is not a separation at all, and from a conflict of interest vantage point, it won’t work," Richard Painter argued in a New York Times op-ed published Thursday.

Painter's comments come a day after Trump's attorney Sheri Dillon outlined the plan to separate the president-elect from his businesses.

Under the arrangement, Trump will still own his businesses and real estate. But his assets will be placed in a trust and control of the businesses will go to his two sons.

Trump's businesses will not conduct any foreign deals and will subject any domestic deals to an ethics review.

Painter outlined three issues with the arrangement that he said wouldn't prevent conflicts of interest.


"First, if Mr. Trump continues to own the businesses, he will continue to receive payments they earn from dealings with foreign governments," he said.

He argued most of the payments will be received in violation of the "Emoluments Clause" of the Constitution, "which expressly forbids anyone in public office from receiving any gifts, salary or profits of any kind from transactions with foreign governments without the consent of Congress."

"[B]ecause if President TrumpDonald John TrumpFlorida GOP lawmaker says he's 'thinking' about impeachment Democrats introduce 'THUG Act' to block funding for G-7 at Trump resort Kurdish group PKK pens open letter rebuking Trump's comparison to ISIS MORE still owns the businesses, or he is the beneficiary of a trust that owns the businesses, he receives the economic benefit — the 'emolument' — from all of these transactions," Painter added.

The former White House attorney also argued that Trump's plan does not remove conflicts of interest "and global security threats posed by his existing business relationships with politicians and politically connected businessmen around the world."

"Third, and perhaps most dangerous to our national security, our president could be beholden, and indebted, to undisclosed lenders and other investors around the world," Painter wrote in his op-ed.

He said that selling Trump's businesses would effectively eliminate such entanglements.

Dillon, Trump's attorney, argued during Tuesday's press conference that under their business plan Trump will not be in violation of the Constitution’s “Emoluments Clause."

“Paying for a hotel room is not a gift or a present, and has nothing to do with an office,” she said. “It is not an emolument. The Constitution does not require President-elect Trump to do anything here.”

She also pushed back on suggestions the president-elect sell his business, arguing that a sale would be impossible and that Trump wouldn't get a fair return.