On his Forbes.com billionaire page, President-elect Donald Trump is described as an “Entrepreneur, Personality." Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that separating the president-elect from his businessman identity is proving to be… tricky. But in a series of tweets Wednesday morning, Trump claimed he would step back from his businesses and said he would outline exactly how that would work in a “major news conference” on Dec. 15.
But I wouldn’t hold your breath.
The feverish Twitter announcement had what I consider all the best hallmarks of a Trump rant: masturbatory self-congratulations (“I will be leaving my great business…”), vague technical phrasing (“...in total…”), and poor understanding of why separations between presidents and businesses exist or what even constitutes a legitimate separation. In his series of tweets, Trump claimed “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.” If you take a moment to unpack that sentence, it’s pretty amazing, from his ignoring the emoluments clause of the Constitution, to his assertion that it’s only “visually important” and not substantively crucial.
He rounds it out by stating the obvious but in a way where you’re not sure if he actually understands that it is obvious, saying “The Presidency is a far more important task!” More important than your businesses? I should think so.
While describing a news conference as “major” two weeks before it happens feels a bit like an oversell, there is one thing that will, indeed, make it “major” — assuming it happens, it will be Trump’s first press conference in 141 days. The Washington Post’s Philip Bump helpfully summed up all of the things that have gone down since Trump’s last press conference on Jul. 27, including the Khan family fight, his tirade against former Miss Universe Alicia Machado, and the release of the Access Hollywood hot mic tape, along with the multiple allegations of sexual abuse against the president-elect — which rump has adamantly denied. Oh, and Trump also won the presidency.
Still, anyone expecting Trump to announce a true “blind-trust” is likely to be sorely disappointed. Everything that he has put forward up until this point signals that Trump doesn’t actually understand what a blind-trust is. As Politico's Darren Samuelsohn noted "Under the legal definition of a blind trust, a public official places his finances under the management of an independent party. The official would have no knowledge of what is in the trust or how it is managed." Thus, when Trump has said his children will oversee his businesses that doesn't constitute a blind trust.
What’s more troubling to some is Trump’s timing as it relates to the Electoral College vote on Dec. 19. While many expect everything to proceed as expected, there is an effort underway to encourage electors to not support Trump. An announcement by Trump that he is entering a blind-trust (even if it's not clear that he hasn any intention of doing so) could quiet some electors' fears.
Whatever happens on Dec. 15, there’s one lesson we should take to heart from the 2016 Trump Campaign: trying to anticipate Donald Trump is a futile exercise.