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CNN Interviews Matthew Sanderson on Trump's Children Presenting Potential Conflicts of Interest

November 22, 2016, CNN

“Donald Trump is coming to Washington promising to ‘drain the swamp,’” said CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.  “But the involvement of Trump's children in his White House transition, as well as his business dealings that may be blurring the lines somewhat between public service, private profit. Brian Todd is working the story for us.”  To view Brian Todd’s interview with Caplin & Drysdale’s Matthew T. Sanderson, please visit CNN’s website

Excerpt taken from the interview “Trump’s Potential Conflicts of Interest” with Brian Todd for CNN’s Situation Room.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we're seeing more alarm bells being raised tonight, because it seems that the potential government portfolios of Trump's children, especially his daughter Ivanka, only seem to be expanding. Ethics lawyers, other experts openly questioning tonight if Trump and his children can achieve any separation from his business empire.

TODD: When Donald Trump is in the White House, he plans to hand off his business holdings to his children, but there are growing signs of potential conflicts of interest. Trump's daughter, Ivanka joined him in his meeting with Japan's Prime Minister.

MATTHEW SANDERSON, POLITICAL LAW ATTORNEY: And what it looks like is he may be forming less of a team of rivals and more of a team of relatives, and that's a problem.

TODD: Like any business, Trump's empire is affected by policies set by the government. But with his children playing key roles in his transition team, choosing the country's top policymakers, critics say it's problematic.

DREW HARWELL, BUSINESS REPORTER AT THE WASHINGTON POST: It's incredible. I mean, there are conflicts at every turn. Trump has said that there will be a wall between, you know, his kids and his business interests and his public ambitions. There's no wall that we're seeing right now.

TODD: The Trump transition team says it will make sure all rules and regulations are followed, and Trump's business organization says this is how it plans to handle the ethical dilemma.

MICHAEL COHEN, TRUMP ORGANIZATION ATTORNEY: It's going to be placed into a blind trust.

TODD: But experts say your own children are not what most lawyers would call a blind trust.

SANDERSON: And it's not credible to say that it's a blind trust, because in an actual blind trust, he would divest himself all of the interests that he holds. He would sell off his properties that he owns, and he would put the proceeds into a trust that's run by an independent third party.

TODD: Trump himself has shown uncertainty.

TRUMP: Well, I don't know, if it's a blind trust if Ivanka, Don and Eric run it, but - is that a blind trust? I don't know.

TODD: One of Trump's top supporters offers this assurance.

RUDY GUILIANI, FORMER NEW YORK CITY MAYOR: They'll have to be a wall between them with regard to government matters.

TODD: Also complicated, the case of Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who's playing a trusted role in the Trump transition team. He runs a newspaper and a billion dollar real estate company. Could Trump give a top post to his own son-in-law.

SANDERSON: It may be legally questionable and politically perilous for him to choose someone close to him and the number one qualification being that they're related to Donald Trump.

TODD: Why doesn't Trump just turn his entire business empire over to an outside third-party trustee?

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR OF THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP BOOK: Donald trusts no one more than he trusts, Ivanka, Donald, Jr., and Eric. But the problem that Donald has is that he doesn't trust very many people.

TODD: Now, one glaring physical example of President-elect Trump's potential conflicts of interest is here, just a few blocks away from the White House, the Trump International Hotel. Trump Hotels is the tenant and once he's president, Trump is also going to be the land lord, since this property is rented from the federal government. Trump will have the power to hire and fire the head of the General Services Administration, the GSA, which oversees this property, and he could conceivably, in effect, be in a position to negotiate the rent for this place with himself. Neither the Trump transition team nor the Trump organization have commented on that. The GSA told CNN, it's going to work to address any potential conflicts of interests with this building.

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