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11 questions for Donald Trump on his conflicts of interest

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Donald Trump’s press conference today is a long time coming.

It’s been 168 days since his last one, on July 27, and six weeks since he promised — and canceled — a press conference where he said he’d explain how he’ll disentangle his business interests from his presidency.

And while the explosive CNN report that intelligence agencies are investigating the links between Trump and Russia (and BuzzFeed’s ensuing release of the specific unverified allegations the agencies are evaluating) is bound to eat up much of the conference’s running time, Trump still hasn’t explained to the American people how he will insulate himself from conflicts of interest as president.

These are the questions he still has to answer. The first question is the most crucial. Without a truly blind trust — in which Trump sells his stake in his company and allows a disinterested party to manage his money — leading ethics experts say that he will be unable to avoid conflicts of interest.

If he doesn’t do that, the questions multiply. Here are some things he should be asked:

  1. Mr. President-elect, will you commit to selling your ownership in the Trump Organization and putting your business interests into a blind trust, as ethics experts recommend is essential to an ethically clean administration?
  2. What steps will you take to keep your sons Eric and Donald Jr., who will be running your business, away from your policymaking?
  3. How will you ensure that there is a wall between your businesses and their employees and your presidency?
  4. What role will your daughter Ivanka Trump be playing in your business or your administration? What is her plan to avoid conflicts of interest?
  5. How have your interactions with foreign business partners shaped your thinking about the United States’ relationships with other countries?
  6. Do you encourage foreign diplomats to book events at your hotel? Will it affect your views of those countries while dealing with them?
  7. What message have you conveyed to your nominees about conflicts of interest? How do you justify to them that they must meet more stringent requirements than you do?
  8. Some of your advisers, particularly your son-in-law Jared Kushner, have conflicts of interest of their own. What gives you confidence that they will be pursuing the policies you want, rather than enriching themselves?
  9. Do you believe Trump properties around the world are likely to be terrorist targets? If that determination were made, how would you make a decision about deploying the security apparatus of the United States to protect properties associated with your brand?
  10. When will you release your tax returns to prove that, as you claim, you do not have extensive financial ties with Russia?
  11. You’ve said that you believe it’s “visually important” for the president to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest. Can you explain the reasons you think this is important and why you think you’re doing enough to create trust?

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