President-elect Donald Trump is perfectly entitled to retain his business holdings, and to permit his adult children to run those businesses, as a means of avoiding conflicts-of-interest during his presidency. The Constitution does not require him to divest his holdings, nor do other federal laws.
Although many previous presidents have chosen to put their personal holdings in a “blind trust,” this was not required and in Trump’s case such a requirement would be particularly iniquitous. Trump could not simply liquidate his holdings in the public securities markets at market prices. He would have to find buyers for a vast array of real estate holdings and ongoing businesses. Each of those potential buyers would be well aware of his need to sell, and to sell quickly, and the value of his holdings would be discounted.
In addition, of course, the Trump Organization is a family business, as it has been since the time of Trump’s father. Most of his children are employed in that business. Neither law nor logic require Trump to pull the rug out from under them. A newly elected president is simply not required to make such personal sacrifices as the price of assuming an office to which he was constitutionally elected.
This is, in fact, how previous administrations have dealt with the one, actual limit the Constitution imposes on a president’s personal financial activities: the prohibition on taking any “emoluments” from foreign countries. There is no reason the Trump administration cannot follow this rule.
David B. Rivkin Jr. and Lee A. Casey practice appellate and constitutional law in Washington. They served in the Justice Department and the White House counsel’s office during the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations.