Donald Trump vows to step away from business empire
Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross join Trump's economic team, plan to 'strip back' Dodd-Frank legislation
U.S. president-elect Donald Trump said Wednesday that he's leaving his business empire to focus on being the nation's 45th president, bowing to pressure to avoid potential conflicts of interest between governing and profiting in the private sector.
"I will be leaving my great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to make America great again," he tweeted in a series of missives sent before dawn.
"While I am not mandated to do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as president, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses."
I will be holding a major news conference in New York City with my children on December 15 to discuss the fact that I will be leaving my ...—@realDonaldTrump
great business in total in order to fully focus on running the country in order to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN! While I am not mandated to ....—@realDonaldTrump
do this under the law, I feel it is visually important, as President, to in no way have a conflict of interest with my various businesses..—@realDonaldTrump
He said legal documents are "being crafted which take me completely out of business operations," he added, saying the presidency is "a far more important task!"
Trump taps commerce, treasury secretaries
Meanwhile, former Goldman Sachs executive Steven Mnuchin, Trump's former campaign finance director, confirmed that Trump has picked him as treasury secretary and that billionaire investor Wilbur Ross has been chosen for commerce secretary.
Mnuchin, 53, led Trump's finance operations during the presidential campaign. But he has no government experience, which could prove a hurdle in navigating the tricky politics of Washington.
If confirmed by the Senate, Mnuchin would play a central role in shaping Trump's tax policies and infrastructure plans. He would also lead an agency tasked with implementing international economic sanctions.
Dodd-Frank changes proposed
Mnuchin and Wilbur are promising major changes to the 2010 Dodd-Frank law Congress passed to prevent another financial crisis.
They say the law went too far to hinder banks from making loans that people and businesses need to spend and hire.
Mnuchin said loans are "the engine of growth" for small- and medium-sized businesses, and that the fallout from Dodd-Frank has been a cutting back on lending.
He told CNBC's Squawk Box that the incoming administration wants to "strip back parts of Dodd-Frank that prevent banks from lending, and that'll be the No. 1 priority on the regulatory side."
Ross blamed the law for putting banks in a position where he says "they now have more compliance people than they have lending officers."
Conflict of interest rules 'are very vague'
Asked about Trump's announcement on separating himself from his business empire, Reince Priebus, Trump's incoming White House chief of staff, said "that'll all be worked out."
Priebus said Wednesday on MSNBC's Morning Joe, that "he's got the best people in America working on it." Priebus demurred when asked if Trump planned to put his businesses in a blind trust or leave them in the hands of his adult children.
"I'm, not ready to reveal that really," he said.
Priebus added that Trump's business acumen and the many business interests he has as a result of it is "nothing to be ashamed about." He said Trump is "taking seriously" the issue of possible conflicts of interest.
"We're making sure that all those conflicts are taken care of," Priebus said. He said the applicable rules and regulations "are very vague" and that's Trump's people are "doing the best job we can."
Priebus said the country hasn't seen a president of such business acumen before and that the rules and regulations "don't contemplate this scenario."
Mnuchin, meanwhile, told CNBC on Wednesday that he and Ross are "thrilled to work for the president-elect and honored to have these positions."
He said "sustained economic growth" is the chief priority of the incoming administration and that "we can absolutely get to sustained three to four per cent" in the gross domestic product.
He also outlined what he called "the largest tax change" since president Ronald Reagan — cutting the corporate tax rate to 15 per cent, a "big" middle-class income tax cut and simplifying taxes.