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Trump: 'In Theory I Could Run My Business...and The Country Perfectly'

Speaking at New York Times meeting, Trump indicated he didn't see a conflict of interest in signing checks for business empire while in office

"There's never been a case like this," Trump reportedly said. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

President-elect Donald Trump indicated during an on-the-record meeting with the New York Times on Tuesday that he didn't necessarily see a conflict of interest in managing both his business and the country at the same time, but that he would hand the former over to his children.

"The law's totally on my side," he said, according to Politico. "The president can't have a conflict of interest."

Maggie Haberman, a Times journalist who live-tweeted the meeting, quoted Trump as saying that "in theory," he could continue signing checks at his corporate empire, but that he is "phasing that out now" and having his children take over for him.

"In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly. There's never been a case like this," he reportedly said.

"I'd assumed that you'd have to set up some type of trust or whatever and you don't," he added. "I would like to do something."

Observers recently criticized Trump for allowing his daughter, Ivanka, to sit in on meetings and calls with heads of state despite not holding elected office—and being tapped to take over the family's business interests while Trump is in office. Many warned this could constitute a serious conflict of interest. Ivanka and her husband Jared Kushner, a close associate of Trump's, are key members of the president-elect's transition team.

Trump was also criticized last week for meeting with international partners at his office at Trump Tower in Manhattan, as government ethics experts said he could be seen as trying to use the presidency to advance his personal business interests.

"[F]or a large part of the American public, it is not going to be okay. His role as president-elect should dictate that someone else handles business matters," Robert L. Walker, the former chief counsel of the Senate Ethics Committee, told the Times.

Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, added, "Donald Trump's children and son-in-law have been deeply involved in the transition and selecting who will be part of his administration. At the same time they are deeply involved in the business. There does not seem to be any sign of a meaningful separation of Trump government operations and his business operations."

As Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) wrote Tuesday, "Every other president was prepared to put aside their personal business interests when they entered the White House. It is a job requirement; it's as simple as that. Anyone who cares about the integrity of the U.S. government and that the presidency not be used as a platform for personal enrichment should be demanding that Trump follow longstanding precedent by selling off his holdings and have them placed in a blind trust."

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