Five top Senate Democrats say they will introduce legislation when Congress returns for its new session in January that would force Donald Trump to sell off at least some of his assets and solve his complicated conflict-of-interest problems. Trump owns hundreds of businesses and has a broad range of financial interests, from traditional investments such as stocks and bonds to large real estate holdings to licensing deals in the United States and abroad. Trump also has significant debts, totaling at least $713 million. But even as pressure has mounted on the president-elect to deal with the minefield of conflicts created by his holdings, Trump has indicated he will not divest himself of his interests. Instead, in a series of tweets, Trump has indicated he plans to simply stop actively managing his businesses. That's not enough, say the group of Senate Democrats.
Conflict-of-interest rules currently apply to all top federal officials—except the president and vice president. The carve-out was enshrined during the George H.W. Bush administration, at least in part because the president and vice president can't recuse themselves from their duties if they run into the same strict conflict-of-interest rules governing other federal employees. Since then, presidents and vice presidents have voluntarily taken steps to avoid even the appearance of conflicts, often by placing their assets in blind trusts. For example, in preparation for his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama put almost his entire personal stock portfolio in Treasury notes and the remainder into widely held mutual funds. Obama also declined to refinance his home mortgage, even though far lower rates are now available, so as not to create even the appearance of a conflict of interest.