President-elect Donald Trump on Wednesday announced his picks for two crucial cabinet posts, treasury and commerce, and said he would soon unveil a plan to remove himself from his “great business in total” and focus on running the US.
Hollywood financier Steven Mnuchin, who wrote Trump’s tax plan and ran his campaign’s finance wing, was named as secretary of treasury, and billionaire investor Wilbur Ross was tapped for the position of secretary of commerce.
The other big cabinet berths — secretaries of state and defence — remain in play, with Trump meeting Mitt Romney, a leading contender for state, for the second time over a widely publicised dinner at a tony New York restaurant.
The race for secretary of state has become embroiled in recent days in a highly public spat between leading Trump advisers and surrogates, with some of them vehemently opposed to Romney, who had tried everything he could to defeat the real estate mogul.
As he picks his cabinet, Trump has come under mounting pressure to distance himself from his sprawling business operations in the US and abroad — including 16 entities in India — over concerns about conflict of interest.
After sending mixed signals about his intentions earlier — from saying he would hand over his businesses to his children, who are already running them, to stating the president “can’t have a conflict of interest” — he seems ready to remove himself.
“I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my…great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! While I am not mandated to…do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses…Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations,” Trump said in three tweets.
“The Presidency is a far more important task!” he added in the last.
Neither he nor his campaign gave any details.
Concerns about the impact of his business on his presidency have spiked in recent days, with his children, specially daughter Ivanka Trump, sitting in on his meetings with foreign leaders, and Trump himself receiving business partners from the Philippines and India.
While there are several separation plans under speculation, one suggested by The Economist has received some attention. It’s a three-part plan whereby Trump is expected to bundle all the hundreds of his entities into one holding company, get a board of independent directors to name a CEO, who will have the power to sell assets but not buy any, and, finally, distribute all profits as dividends and refrain from new foreign investments.
“The effect would be to turn the Trump Organisation into a mature portfolio of domestic property assets which generate rental payments for the Trumps,” the publication said.