US & Canada

Trump denies any conflict of interest over business empire

Donald Trump waves to the crowd as he leaves the New York Times building following a meeting, 22 November Image copyright AP
Image caption Donald Trump gave an interview to the New York Times on Tuesday

Billionaire US President-elect Donald Trump has said he is not obliged to cut ties to his business empire when he takes office on 20 January.

A Democratic senator is tabling a resolution calling on him to liquidate his assets to prove he does not intend to profit from the office of president.

There is no legal requirement to liquidate assets but past US presidents have set aside their business dealings.

Mr Trump also disowned far right activists who hailed his election win.

"Alt-right" activists could be seen making Nazi salutes at a conference in Washington DC over the weekend, where a speaker enjoined them to "Hail Trump".

Mr Trump, who has flown to Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday on Thursday, is still assembling his White House team. One of America's top generals, David Petraeus, has told the BBC he would be willing to serve under him.

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Media captionDavid Petraeus says he would serve under Trump, who might improve relations with Russia

What did Trump say exactly?

"In theory I could run my business perfectly and then run the country perfectly," he told the New York Times in an interview.

"I'd assumed that you'd have to set up some type of trust or whatever and you don't."

Image copyright MANDEL NGAN
Image caption Mr Trump (right) has gone to Florida for the Thanksgiving holiday

However, he added that he would "like to do something" to separate his two areas of responsibility.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin would like a more formal separation. He plans to introduce a resolution next week calling on the president-elect to adopt blind trusts or take equivalent measures to ensure that he complies with the constitution over potential conflicts of interest.

What kind of conflicts are we talking about?

The property tycoon is said to be currently worth $3.7bn (£3bn) by Forbes magazine, with more than 500 different enterprises in his business empire.

One example of a possible conflict of interest is the newly opened Trump International Hotel in Washington DC, the BBC's David Willis reports.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner were present when Mr Trump welcomed Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in New York last week

Mr Trump already stands to profit from an influx of visitors in the weeks leading up to his inauguration.

Since the hotel sits on land leased from the federal government, when Mr Trump assumes office, he becomes, effectively, both landlord and tenant overnight, our correspondent notes.

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Eyebrows were also raised when Ivanka Trump joined in a phone conversation her father had last week with the Argentine President, Mauricio Macri.

The Argentine government later denied reports that Donald Trump had asked Mr Macri to approve a building project by one of his companies in Buenos Aires.

What else did Trump tell the New York Times?

Apart from condemning the far right, he defended hiring Steve Bannon, the former CEO of radical conservative news site Breitbart, as his strategist.

"Breitbart is just a publication," Mr Trump told the famously liberal newspaper. "They cover stories like you cover stories."

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Media captionHail Trump: White nationalists mark Trump win with Nazi salute

"If I thought he was a racist or alt-right or any of the things, the terms we could use, I wouldn't even think about hiring him", the president-elect added.

He also argued that:

  • His son-in-law Jared Kushner - a real estate heir who has no experience of diplomacy - could help forge peace between Israel and Palestinians
  • The US should not be a "nation-builder" in the world
  • Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell "love" him again

And he accepted there was some "connectivity" between human activity and climate change.