Will Donald Trump Put His Businesses In A Blind Trust If He's President? Most presidents have tried to avoid conflicts by putting their investments in a blind trust. That only works for paper wealth, but Donald Trump wouldn't be like past presidents.
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4 Questions About Donald Trump's Potential Conflicts Of Interest If He's Elected

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4 Questions About Donald Trump's Potential Conflicts Of Interest If He's Elected

4 Questions About Donald Trump's Potential Conflicts Of Interest If He's Elected

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

If you were to picture a Donald Trump presidency, his business empire would be a prominent feature. Trump claims he's a multibillionaire. His official financial disclosure runs to 92 pages, listing hundreds of different entities that he owns or makes money from. America has never had a president like this or a way to avoid the built-in conflicts of interest. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Trump's wealth is on view just five blocks east of the White House. Trump Hotels is taking over what was once Washington's main post office. Earlier this spring, Trump took a break from the primaries to show off the reconstruction.

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DONALD TRUMP: We're getting so many questions on the building itself, how it's coming. And - this is a great speaker system, boy.

OVERBY: On Inauguration Day next January, the presidential limo will roll right past the Trump International Hotel.

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TRUMP: We have close to 300 hundred rooms, super luxury. And it's going to be amazing. We're going to...

OVERBY: But in a Trump administration, there could be conflicts of interest all over the place. Take the hotel. It belongs to The Trump Organization, but the post office building belongs to the federal government. Federal conflict of interest laws don't apply to the president and vice president.

Most presidents since the 1960s have tried to avoid conflicts by putting their investments in a blind trust. An independent trustee takes control of the portfolio, and the politician gets only minimal information on performance. It works for paper wealth, stocks, bonds, other liquid assets. But Trump wouldn't be like past presidents.

ANDREW RUDALEVIGE: To put your identity into a blind trust is a little difficult.

OVERBY: This is Andrew Rudalevige, a government professor at Bowdoin College. He studies recent presidencies. He said that for Trump...

RUDALEVIGE: It's tricky because, you know, one of the things he claims is his most valued asset is his name.

OVERBY: Trump addressed the issue back in January. A debate moderator asked if he would put his holdings into a blind trust. First, Trump said three of his children would take over. They're already active in the Trump Organization. Then, he reconsidered.

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TRUMP: I don't know if it's a blind trust if Ivanka, Don and Eric run it. But - is that a blind trust? I don't know.

OVERBY: And finally, he dug in.

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TRUMP: But I would probably have my children run it with my executives. And I wouldn't ever be involved because I wouldn't care about anything but our country.

OVERBY: Involved or not, potential conflicts abound. Rudalevige said that with Trump's branding and his ego...

RUDALEVIGE: It's hard to know how that would actually be something you could hide and not have an impact on as you were acting as president.

OVERBY: For instance, consider foreign policy. Trump has hotels and golf courses in countries all over the world.

KENNETH GROSS: So if he puts a golf course in a blind trust, it doesn't blind his knowledge of his ownership. It doesn't do anything.

OVERBY: Ken Gross is a Washington ethics lawyer who's worked on blind trusts for House members, senators and presidential candidates.

GROSS: They are useful as a political device because they sound good when people say their assets are in a blind trust.

OVERBY: But there is no blind trust that can give you amnesia. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEMI-CHARMED LIFE")

THIRD EYE BLIND: (Singing) Do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do, do do, do I want something else.

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