Poll: Trump Needs To Choose Between Presidency And His Business
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Some world leaders have multiple titles. Britain's Queen Elizabeth, for example, is Elizabeth II but also Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith. Donald Trump, too, will have multiple titles.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
He will soon be president of the United States. And he will also be Donald Trump, executive producer of "The Apprentice." He will keep that credit and the financial stake that comes with it.
INSKEEP: The president-elect has said that next week he will reveal what steps he's going to take to separate his presidency from his business operations in multiple countries. It's not clear how far he's going to go. But we do know that an overwhelming majority of voters say they want a clear line between his presidency and his financial interests. NPR's Jim Zarroli reports.
JIM ZARROLI, BYLINE: Donald Trump was elected as a businessman, someone whose commercial savvy could help the economy grow more quickly.
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DONALD TRUMP: I'm really rich. I'll show you that in a second.
TRUMP: And, by the way, I'm not even saying that in a brag - that's the kind of mindset - that's the kind of thinking you need for this country.
ZARROLI: Trump supporters, such as Andrew Favro (ph), a firefighter in the upstate New York town of Plattsburgh, say his business experience is one of the things they like about Trump.
ANDREW FAVRO: I'm glad that he is a business person and not just someone who's just a politician.
ZARROLI: But now that Trump has been elected, a lot of people want him to switch gears. Two-thirds of those answering a recent Bloomberg survey say Trump needs to choose between being a businessman and being president. They're people such as Christian Duval-Phelps, who's unemployed and says he supported Bernie Sanders.
CHRISTIAN DUVAL-PHELPS: He's running the country. That should be his first, second, third and fourth priority.
ZARROLI: People are less clear about what Trump should do with those businesses. Former government ethics officials say the cleanest way for Trump to address the conflicts of interests would be to sell off his huge network of companies and put the proceeds in neutral assets such as treasury bills. But pollster Ann Selzer, who did the Bloomberg survey, says 69 percent of those who answered think forcing Trump to sell all of his assets goes too far.
ANN SELZER: They want him to be the president. And they want that to be a full-time job. In order to do that, does he need to completely sell off everything? Well, that feels a bit much.
ZARROLI: At the same time, Selzer says, nearly half of the respondents are skeptical that Trump will put the country's interests ahead of his own when he meets with foreign leaders. And that suggests this could be a big issue for him down the road.
LARRY JACOBS: There's no doubt in my mind that this is treacherous territory for Donald Trump.
ZARROLI: Larry Jacobs, professor of political science at the University of Minnesota, says so far, at least, Americans may not be paying a lot of attention to the issues raised by Trump's businesses.
JACOBS: Americans care about corruption and a conflict of interest when they see it. As an abstract matter, it doesn't usually rise to the top of their agenda. They've got so many other things they're thinking about.
ZARROLI: But, he says, if people start to hear more stories about, say, Trump's children sitting in on meetings with foreign leaders or Trump's hotels being used for government functions, the issue could quickly gain more traction.
JACOBS: Well, Americans, I think, are giving him the benefit of the doubt at this moment, before he's inaugurated. Once he's sworn in and he's in the White House, I think there's going to be more scrutiny.
ZARROLI: During the campaign, Trump said he would turn over his businesses to three of his grown children. But critics say that wouldn't solve the problem because Trump would still own the company. More recently, Trump said he would take steps to separate himself from his business operations.
He will announce details at a major press conference on December 15. The challenge for Trump is to convince Americans he can put the issue behind him before it becomes a liability. Jim Zarroli, NPR News, New York.
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