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January 11, 2017

Donald Trump's plan to remove himself from his businesses without divesting ownership doesn't even come close to solving the problem of potential conflicts of interest, the director of the Office of Government Ethics said Wednesday.

"We can't risk creating the perception that government leaders would use their official positions for profit," Walter Shaub said at the Brookings Institute. "That's why I was glad in November when the president-elect tweeted that he wanted to, as he put it, 'in no way have a conflict of interest' with his businesses. Unfortunately, his current plan cannot achieve that goal." The Office of Government Ethics is independent and nonpartisan, and works with executive branch officials to prevent conflicts of interest. Last week, the office sent Democrats in the Senate a letter advising them that they were still waiting for many of Trump's Cabinet nominees to send over their proper ethics packages.

Shaub said one major problem with Trump's "wholly inadequate" plan is that he will have his sons, Eric and Don Jr., run the Trump Organization, and that will involve communications that wouldn't take place in a blind trust. Sheri Dillon, a lawyer for Trump, said on Wednesday a blind trust was impossible to enter into because "you cannot have a totally blind trust with operating businesses." If they were to sell off the business or divest, she added, it would cost the Trumps millions of dollars, and that just wasn't fair. Shaub was unmoved. "It's important to understand that the president is now entering the world of public service," he said. "He's going to be asking his own appointees to make sacrifices. He's going to be asking our men and women in uniform to risk their lives in conflicts around the world. So, no, I don't think divestiture is too high a price to pay to be the president of the United States of America."

You can watch Shaub's short address on government ethics and why Trump should change course below. Catherine Garcia

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