Trump says he will 'leave business' to focus on presidency

image copyrightAP
image captionDonald Trump has announced he will be leaving his business "in total"

President-elect Donald Trump has announced he is to leave his business empire to focus on the presidency and avoid perceived conflicts of interest.

Mr Trump gave few details but said he would expand on his plans at a press conference next month.

He has previously dismissed concerns over potential conflicts between his businesses and the presidency.

Meanwhile, former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin confirmed he had been picked as treasury secretary.

Billionaire investor Wilbur Ross has been chosen for commerce secretary.

Mr Trump meanwhile focused on his plans to distance himself from his business in a series of four tweets released over 20 minutes.

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image copyright@realDonaldTrump
image copyright@realDonaldTrump
image copyright@realDonaldTrump

As Mr Trump noted there is no legal requirement to liquidate assets but past US presidents have set aside their business dealings.

Mr Trump's rivals have raised repeated concerns this may cause problems in the coming months.

Sacrifice time: analysis by Michelle Fleury, BBC Business Correspondent, New York

Donald Trump may not be mandated to leave his business but he would be wise to do so. True, the president is exempt from most conflict-of-interest laws but not the "emoluments clause", which prohibits public officials from taking payments "of any kind whatever from any king, prince or foreign state".

He is already taking heat from Democrats. Maryland Senator Ben Cardin has introduced a resolution requesting that Donald Trump hand over control of his business to someone who does not have a relationship with him while he is president.

With Mr Trump's ethical problem in danger of becoming a political problem, he is right to try to defuse these concerns. The question is, how?

Selling his business is the safest option but one the president-elect seems loath to do. If he chooses to turn over his business empire to his children, that will not resolve the issue. How would their interests be very different from his?

On the campaign trail, Donald Trump talked about changing Washington's self-serving culture. He spoke of "draining the swamp" and the American people are unlikely to take kindly to even the appearance of their president making money off the office. We will learn more on 15 December about what sacrifices he is willing to make to lead by example.

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.

Mr Trump, who takes office on 20 January, had previously indicated to the New York Times that he was considering separating his two areas of responsibility but was confident he could run both "perfectly".

He has also previously suggested he could hand over his sprawling business interests to his three eldest children - Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr, who already hold roles within his empire.

image copyrightAFP
image captionChildren (second left to right, seen here sitting beside Melania) Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr are already involved in the business

However, Reince Priebus, Mr Trump's incoming White House chief of staff, refused to say on MSNBC's Morning Joe whether he was handing the business to his children or putting it into a blind trust, which would place the management of his assets in the hands of other experts.

"I'm not ready to reveal that really," he said, adding Mr Trump had "got the best people in America working on it".

Later on Wednesday, Trump transition spokesman Jason Miller told Fox News' Fox & Friends that the president-elect is "completely getting out of the business" and "handing it over to the family".

Mr Miller added the mid-December news conference allows Mr Trump time to work out the details of breaking away from his business empire.

Less than a mile down the road from the White House sits one of Mr Trump's potential conflicts of interest.

The brand new Trump International Hotel was leased to Mr Trump's organisation in 2013 by the General Services Administration (GSA), a federal agency.

When he takes office, Mr Trump will be in charge of appointing the administrator of the GSA.