Donald Trump's Potential Business Conflicts, Explained

Photo: Evan Vucci/AP/REX/Shutterstock.
You've probably heard people talk about President-elect Donald Trump's conflict-of-interests issue.

But what exactly does that mean?

Experts on government ethics are warning that the president-elect will never shake suspicions of a clash between his private interests and the public good unless he sells off his vast holdings. And there's a lot to sell. His business portfolio includes roughly 500 companies in more than a dozen countries.

Ethics experts say even the appearance of conflicts is likely to tie up the new administration in investigations, lawsuits, and squabbles, stoked perhaps by angry Oval Office tweets.

"People are itching to sue Donald Trump and stick him under oath," said Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer for George W. Bush.

During a meeting with The New York Times in late November, Trump insisted that the "law's totally on my side." Ethics experts agree that federal conflicts of interest rules don't apply to the president.

His company, The Trump Organization, has had no comment on the conflicts issue, other than a statement reiterating its plans to transfer control of the company to the president-elect's adult children.

Painter doesn't think that goes far enough. In a letter to Trump published in mid-November, he joined watchdog groups and ethics lawyers from both Democratic and Republican administrations in predicting "rampant, inescapable" conflicts that will engulf the new administration if the president-elect does not liquidate his business holdings.

Ahead, we take a look at five areas where conflicts may arise during the Trump administration.

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