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President-elect Trump may face some big conflicts of interest once he takes office. To avoid them, a group that includes former politicians, ethics experts and even contributors to the conservative website Breitbart are calling on Trump to sell off his business interests. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: The letter says Trump cannot serve the country as president and also own a worldwide business enterprise without seriously damaging the presidency, and it says simply handing over those operations to Trump's grown children as the president-elect as proposed won't solve the problem.
MICKEY EDWARDS: We haven't had many presidents who have their own personal economic linkages with people in other countries and other governments.
ZARROLI: Former Congressman Mickey Edwards of Oklahoma served as chair of the House Republican Policy Committee.
EDWARDS: He's going to be the one who makes the really vital decisions about Russia when he's got investments in Russia or other places where he's got investments.
ZARROLI: The letter was signed by good government groups such as Common Cause as well as moderate Republicans such as former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman. It was also signed by prominent conservatives, such as Peter Schweizer of the Government Accountability Institute, a harsh critic of the Clintons, and by Breitbart contributor John Pudner of Take Back Our Republic.
JOHN PUDNER: I think this is good for both the country and for him.
ZARROLI: Pudner says Trump campaigned on a platform of cleaning up the swamp, and failing to deal with the conflicts of interest he faces will distract from his effort to reform Washington.
PUDNER: If you have the presidency and people are going to question every week, well, why is he making this decision; was there some business angle on it, I just think it undercuts so much of the reason that people did support him.
ZARROLI: The letter notes that Trump has begun to address the conflicts he faces by terminating business deals in countries such as Brazil and Azerbaijan. He's also said he wants to shut down his charitable foundation, which is being investigated by the New York attorney general.
This is a good start, the letter says, but the only way for Trump to solve the problem is by putting his businesses in a blind trust managed by someone independent. Trump so far hasn't been willing to do that, but his transition team says he may hold a press conference next week to discuss his plans. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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