The New York Times reports: Just days before his inauguration, President-elect Donald J. Trump stood beside his tax lawyer at a Midtown Manhattan news conference as she announced that he planned to place his vast business holdings in a trust, a move she said would allay fears that he might exploit the Oval Office for personal gain.
However, a number of questions were left unanswered — including who would ultimately benefit from the trust — raising concerns about just how meaningful the move was.
Now, records have emerged that show just how closely tied Mr. Trump remains to the empire he built.
While the president says he has walked away from the day-to-day operations of his business, two people close to him are the named trustees and have broad legal authority over his assets: his eldest son, Donald Jr., and Allen H. Weisselberg, the Trump Organization’s chief financial officer. Mr. Trump, who will receive reports on any profit, or loss, on his company as a whole, can revoke their authority at any time.
What’s more, the purpose of the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust is to hold assets for the “exclusive benefit” of the president. This trust remains under Mr. Trump’s Social Security number, at least as far as federal taxes are concerned.
Since his election, there have been widespread calls for Mr. Trump to sell his assets and put the proceeds in a blind trust. He has resisted those calls, stressing that the president has no legal obligation to do so.
While the trust structure, outlined in documents made public through a Freedom of Information Act request by ProPublica, may give the president the appearance of distance from his business, it drew sharp criticism from experts in government ethics. [Continue reading…]