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Trump giving businesses to his kids won't eliminate conflicts, government ethics office says

Donald Trump (C) delivers remarks with his children (L-R) Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump during the grand opening ceremony of the new Trump International Hotel October 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.
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Donald Trump (C) delivers remarks with his children (L-R) Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump during the grand opening ceremony of the new Trump International Hotel October 26, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Donald Trump would not remove conflicts of interest by transferring his businesses to his children, and the president-elect should follow tradition by divesting or establishing a true blind trust, the Office of Government Ethics said this week.

In a letter sent Monday to Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del, agency director Walter Shaub Jr. said transferring operational control to children "would not constitute the establishment of a qualified blind trust, nor would it eliminate conflicts of interest" under the primary federal statute.

While he called on Trump to divest "conflicting assets" or make a qualified blind trust, Shaub said his agency, which operates within the executive branch and makes ethics guidelines, "has no power to require adherence to this tradition."

Trump's business connections around the globe leave unprecedented chances for conflicts in his White House. Trump has rightfully noted that the criminal conflict of interest statute does not apply to the president, though Shaub said the executive branch has always held that the president should act as if he is bound by it.

Trump canceled an announcement about his business plans initially set for Thursday, saying he plans to hold a press conference "in the near future." Instead, he tweeted that sons Donald Jr. and Eric, along with executives, will manage the businesses. He vaguely added that "no new deals" will be done while he is in office.

The president-elect's three eldest children, Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric, hold spots on his transition team while serving as executives at the Trump Organization. Ivanka has sat in on at least one meeting with a key world leader, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

President-elect Trump has also acknowledged that he "might have" discussed business-related topics with a foreign official.

Separately Wednesday, House Democrats announced that the General Services Administration informed them that Trump would violate the lease for his Washington hotel "the moment he takes office" unless he fully divests himself of financial interests in it. A provision of the lease for the hotel in the Old Post Office building says that "No ... elected official of the Government of the United States ... shall be admitted to any share or part of this Lease, or to any benefit that may arise therefrom."

The Trump transition team did not respond to a request for comment for this story.