Trump Transitions
December 13, 2016

On Monday, President-elect Donald Trump canceled a planned news conference set for Thursday in which he was to explain how he will handle his businesses when he is in the White House. But he ended the day throwing a bone to anyone interested in how he will try to avoid conflicts of interest, sending out two tweets asserting that "even though I am not mandated by law to do so, I will be leaving my busineses [sic] before January 20th," adding that "two of my children, Don and Eric, plus executives, will manage them. No new deals will be done during my term(s) in office."

The idea that his companies would make no deals is new, but his tweets did little to dispel concerns about Trump's conflicts of interest and other ethical concerns. "It makes no sense to say 'no new deals,'" Richard Painter, a White House ethics adviser to George W. Bush, told The New York Times, noting that Trump tweeted this out right before midnight on a Monday. "What is he talking about?" Trump's tweets raise more questions than answers, Painter added. "Is he going to continue to borrow money from foreign banks like Bank of China? That is a deal.... Or collect rent from foreign government-owned companies? That is a deal. Will he still be hiring people, or having people stay in his hotels?"

Much of what we know about Trump's web of real estate and licensing businesses is from his self-reported financial disclosure form; he has refused calls to release his tax returns. Trump's last press conference was July 27. Peter Weber

December 7, 2016

Everyone who works or volunteers on President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has to sign a nondisclosure agreement, Politico reported on Tuesday, after obtaining a copy of the agreement. The document reportedly bars all members of the transition team from disclosing policy briefings, personnel information, budgets, contracts, draft research papers, donor information, or any other information about major parts of transition business. Transition team members are also ordered to inform on any colleagues they suspect of leaking information, and anyone found violating the clause is subject to legal orders and job termination.

Trump is famous for using NDAs in his business and even private life, and transparency watchdog groups are concerned that if he carries this practice to the White House — as he has suggested he might for high-ranking appointees — it will obfuscate what's happening in Trump's executive branch. But the transition NDA has at least one omission from Trump's previous nondisclosure agreements: There is apparently no "disparagement" clause. So if you want to know what is going on inside Donald Trump's presidential transition, you're probably out of luck — but the worst thing that can legally happen to a transition staffer who insults Trump is that he or she likely won't get a job in the Trump White House. Peter Weber

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