A new report suggests President-elect Donald Trump's tweets on Nov. 30 — which promised a press conference on December 15 to announce formal plans to "leave" his business "completely" to "fully focus on running the country" — should be taken with a truckload of salt.
Two officials close to the transition team told the New York Times in a report published Wednesday that Trump is planning to retain an ownership stake in the business, and is resisting calls to actually divest. Divesting, experts have repeatedly said, is the only way to prevent conflicts of interest from embroiling Trump's presidency — and to stop him from running afoul of the Constitution.
Under the new plan, the Times reports, Trump would pass on formal control of the business to his two adult sons, while ultimately retaining a stake in the business: aka not divesting. Officials told the Times they were exploring a "legal structure" that would allow a degree of separation between the president and the company.
"No final decisions have been made," transition spokeswoman Hope Hicks said in an email to Mic when asked whether the Times report contradicts the president-elect's previous tweets on the matter. "We look forward to sharing additional details on the 15th."
Trump's daughter, Ivanka, will likely also take a leave of absence from the company, according to the Times' sources, raising questions about whether she or her husband Jared Kushner will assume a role in Trump's administration — which could actually be in violation of federal anti-nepotism laws.
Notably, December 15 is just four days before the Electoral College vote to decide who assumes the presidency in January — meaning Trump is leaving very little time for electors to review and account for his announcement in their decision, as two former White House ethics lawyers are urging them to do.
One Republican elector in Texas has already said he will not vote for Trump because, among other reasons, "Trump could be impeached in his first year given his dismissive responses to financial conflicts of interest."
Why aren't people making a bigger deal about Trump's conflicts of interest?
One reason Trump has been so casual about his conflicts, perhaps, is that popular opinion seems to be on the president-elect's side.
A new Bloomberg poll shows 69% of Americans think forcing Trump to leave the company goes too far, although interestingly the same poll found that only about half of Americans — 51% — said they are "very or mostly confident" Trump will actually put the interests of the United States over his own.
Indeed, Trump's popularity has spiked in the wake of the election — although his overall approval rating still lags behind every single president-elect since 1945, when Gallup first began tracking public opinion on the matter following the death of Franklin Roosevelt.
Now, Trump may well face a more skeptical public once the honeymoon period wears off. Reports surfaced Tuesday revealing that real estate brokers working on behalf of Trump Tower in Manhattan blasted out advertisements for apartments — listing "Secret Service" among the amenities.
Other such data points — including a press blast on behalf of Ivanka Trump's jewelry company and reports that Trump is entertaining foreign business partners between transition meetings — show that Trump and his team are already spending time in a way that belies his promise to "fully focus on running the country," and suggest Trump has little concern about the impropriety of and legal problems with profiting from his office.