Ethics chief questions Trump's plan to hand control of business to sons

The US government's top ethics watchdog has criticised a plan by Donald Trump to place his business empire in a trust controlled by two of his children.

The President-elect said in a news conference that he had signed documents to give "complete and total" control of his sprawling business empire to his two eldest sons.

He will retain an ownership stake in the trust that holds his business assets.

Control of The Trump Organization is to be formally handed over by Inauguration Day on 20 January.

Mr Trump has been trying to assuage fears of a conflict of interest when he enters The White House.

However, the Office of Government Ethics urged Mr Trump to go much further to distance himself.

Director Walter Shaub said the President-elect should sell off his businesses and put the proceeds in a blind trust overseen by an independent manager.

"I don't think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America," said Mr Shaub.

He said Mr Trump's plan did not meet the standards set by some of his own nominees, and singled out Rex Tillerson, Mr Trump's choice for secretary of state, who stepped down as CEO of ExxonMobil, as an example to follow.

Explaining why presidential appointees, nominees and presidents themselves typically sever all business ties, Mr Shaub said: "Their basic patriotism usually prevails as they agree to set aside their personal interest to serve their country's interests."

Another expert, Norman Eisen, a former White House ethics adviser under President Barack Obama, said: "Mr Trump's ill-advised course will precipitate scandal and corruption."

During his news conference on Wednesday, Mr Trump told reporters: "My two sons, who are right there, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company.

"They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They're not going to discuss it with me."

He said he had signed legal papers "turning over complete and total control to my sons". Under the agreement, his business assets will be held in a trust.

Don Jr and Eric currently hold executive vice-president roles at the family business.

During Mr Trump's term, the business will not do any new foreign deals but will be allowed to pursue domestic ones.

An ethics adviser will also be appointed and they must approve any deals that could raise concerns.

Mr Trump's lawyer, Sheri Dillon, said that his eldest daughter Ivanka would also have no involvement in the business after he takes office.

She is currently an executive vice-president, but due to her husband's role as Mr Trump's senior adviser she will step away from the business and move with her family to Washington DC.

The 35-year-old will not be taking any official role in her father's administration for now, Ms Dillon said.

Ivanka confirmed in a post on Facebook that she would take a "formal leave of absence" from The Trump Organization and her clothing and accessories brand when her father takes office.

She said: "I plan to take time to settle our three young children into their new home and schools."

The announcement about Mr Trump's family was made during the President-elect's first news conference since his win in the November election.

The majority of questions were about claims that Russia has a dossier of compromising information about him.

Mr Trump dismissed it as "nonsense", "fake news" and "phoney stuff" and suggested US spies may have leaked it.

Meanwhile, Mexico's peso has hit a historic low, losing 0.9%, after Mr Trump repeated his promise to make the country pay for a border wall and to tax companies that move jobs overseas.

Mr Trump told reporters Mexico would reimburse the US for the construction, adding: "I don't feel like waiting a year or a year-and-a-half. We're gonna start building.

"And by the way, Mexico has been so nice. I don't blame them for what's happened, I don't blame them for taking advantage of the US. What I say is, we shouldn't have allowed that to happen."

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