According to a Trump Organization spokesperson, President Donald Trump resigned from his company and "more than 400 affiliated entities," putting his sons Don and Eric Trump in charge alongside chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, NBC News reported Wednesday. However, critics say the move is essentially for show.
Walter Shaub, director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, told NBC News that, from a conflict of interest standpoint, "stepping back from running his business is meaningless."
A 19-page resignation letter shared with the media on Monday was reportedly signed by Trump on Jan. 19, the day before he was inaugurated as president. The letter states: "I, Donald Trump, hereby resign from each and every office and position I hold in the entities listed on Exhibit A hereto. My resignation shall be effective immediately." The following 19 pages are a list of businesses. But while Trump has resigned, this doesn't necessarily mean he's out of the conflict-of-interest woods. "This is not a blind trust," Shaub said, according to NBC News. "It's not even close."
Larry Noble, of the Campaign Legal Center, told CNN that the resignation letter "clearly doesn't resolve the conflict of interest or emoluments problem since this doesn't deal with his financial interests."
News of Trump's resignation from his businesses came amid renewed interest in getting Trump to release his tax returns. On Jan. 23, government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sued Trump for violating the emoluments clause of the Constitution, which prohibits elected officials from receiving payments from foreign governments. The suit alleges that Trump is in violation of that clause every time a foreign official pays to stay or live in one of his numerous hotels and properties around the world.
The lawsuit seeks to obtain Trump's tax returns to "properly assess what income or other payments or loans Mr. Trump has received from foreign governments," according to the New York Times. Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway said Sunday that Trump wouldn't release his returns because "people didn't care." Conway later walked back her statement and said Trump would release them after an audit. In February 2016, the IRS said that, despite the audit, nothing is preventing Trump from releasing his tax returns, except of course for Trump himself.
According to CREW vice-chair Norman Eisen, the lawsuit serves as "a vehicle in order to enforce the Constitution to get those taxes."