By Derek Kravitz and Al Shaw, ProPublica, January 20, 2017
At a news conference last week, now-President Donald Trump said he and his daughter, Ivanka, had signed paperwork relinquishing control of all Trump-branded companies. Next to him were stacks of papers in manila envelopes — documents he said transferred “complete and total control” of his businesses to his two sons and another longtime employee.
Sheri Dillon, the Trump attorney who presented the plan, said that Trump “has relinquished leadership and management of the Trump Organization.” Everything would be placed in a family trust by Jan. 20, she said.
That hasn’t happened.
To transfer ownership of his biggest companies, Trump has to file a long list of documents in Florida, Delaware and New York. We asked officials in each of those states whether they have received the paperwork. As of 3:15 p.m. today, the officials said they have not.
Trump and his associates “are not doing what they said they would do,” said Richard Painter, the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush. “And even that was completely inadequate.”
ProPublica’s questions to the transition team were referred to an outside public relations firm, Hiltzik Strategies, which declined to comment. The president’s team did not allow reporters to view documents, which they said were legal records separating Trump from his eponymous business empire. Dillon’s law firm, Morgan Lewis, has not released the records and they declined further comment, saying it doesn’t comment on client issues.
ProPublica looked at more than a dozen of Trump’s largest companies, which are registered or incorporated in three states. Officials in New York and Delaware said documents are logged as soon as they are received. In Florida, officials told us there is typically a day or two before documents are logged into the system.
Here is what we found:
Business filings for Trump Organization LLC, Trump’s primary holding company, had not been changed, according to New York’s Department of State. Wollman Rink Operations LLC, which runs the Wollman Rink in Central Park through an agreement with New York City, hasn’t been updated either. Trump is listed as the sole authorized representative of the company.
Ivanka Trump is still listed as the authorized officer on records for two entities related to the Old Post Office in Washington, D.C., which the Trump family bought and turned into a hotel. No changes have been filed for either of the companies, which are registered in Delaware.
Documents on The Donald J. Trump Foundation, which Trump has said he would dissolve, haven’t been updated. The charitable foundation has been in a swirl of controversy over its collection and disbursement of funds and an active investigation by New York’s attorney general. (The foundation cannot legally dissolve until the investigation is complete, but the New York Attorney General’s office told ProPublica that Trump can resign as an officer at any time.)
In Delaware, where the majority of Trump’s businesses are registered, state officials told ProPublica that no amendments have been filed for four businesses tied to the Old Post Office and that the most recent filings for two businesses related to the Trump National Golf Club in Washington, D.C., were made more than a year ago.
In Florida, no changes have been made for years to three key Trump businesses operating there: the Trump International Golf Club in Palm Beach, the Mar-A-Lago Club, and DJT Holdings, which has controlling interest in most of Trump’s golf courses in the U.S. and abroad, according to the state’s Division of Corporations.
Even if Trump hands over his companies to a new trust, the plan fails to solve many of his bigger business conflicts, experts say. Terms of the trust that would insulate the president from the Trump Organization haven’t been made public. Trump’s decision not to divest his assets has also been heavily criticized by several former White House attorneys and ethics chiefs.
“What are the terms of the trust? Who is going to be the ethics monitor and what standards will he or she abide by?” said Norman Eisen, who served as the White House chief ethics lawyer under President Obama. “There are 1,000 unanswered questions.”
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