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President-elect's far flung holdings raise high risk for conflicts

A week before the election, the board ruled against Trump’s hotel in a case in Las Vegas.

President-elect's far flung holdings raise high risk for conflicts

Just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House sits the Trump International Hotel, one of the newest luxury additions to President-elect Donald Trump’s real estate empire, and perhaps the most visible symbol of the ethical quandary he now confronts.

The Trump International operates out of the Old Post Office Building, which is owned by the federal government. That means Trump will be appointing the head of the General Services Administration, which manages the property, while his children will be running a hotel that has tens of millions of dollars in ties with the agency.

He also will oversee the National Labor Relations Board while it decides union disputes involving any of his hotels. A week before the election, the board ruled against Trump’s hotel in a case in Las Vegas.

The layers of potential conflicts he faces are in many ways as complex as his far-flung business empire, adding a heightened degree of difficulty for Trump — one of the wealthiest men to ever occupy the White House — in separating his official duties from his private business affairs.

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Further complicating matters are Trump’s decision to name his children to his transition team, and what is likely to be their informal advisory role in his administration. Ivanka Trump joined an official transition meeting on Thursday, the day before Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey was removed from his post leading the effort.

Trump has said he will eliminate ethical concerns by turning the management of his company over to his children, an arrangement he has referred to as a blind trust.

But ethics lawyers — both Republicans and Democrats — say it is far from blind because he would have knowledge of the assets in the trust and be in contact with the people running it, unlike a conventional blind trust controlled entirely by an independent party.

“To say that his children running his businesses is the equivalent of a blind trust — there is simply no credibility in that claim,” said Matthew T. Sanderson, a Washington lawyer and Republican who has worked on the presidential campaigns of John McCain, Rand Paul and Rick Perry.

“Yes, the American public elected him knowing he has these assets, but unless he deals with this properly, there will just be a steady trickle of these conflict-of-interest stories, and it could be a drag on his presidency.”

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