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Donald Trump has ditched his financial stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline's owner


UPDATE | November 29, 2016: The Washington Post reports  that President-elect Donald Trump sold off most of his shares of Energy Transfer Partners -- the company that intends to build the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline -- over the summer.

The sale, according to the Post, "would eliminate one possible conflict of interest for Trump, who has vowed to speed up permits for oil and gas pipelines in order to spur more oil and gas development in the United States."

Trump still holds stake in Phillips 66

Trump still appears, however, to hold between $500,000 to $1 million worth of holdings in Phillips 66, a Texas-based energy company which will have a 25 percent stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline once it's complete.

Trump also received more than $100,000 in political contributions from Energy Transfer chief executive Kelcy Warren over the course of his presidential campaign.

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Watch |  Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has personally invested at least $1 million in companies behind the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

Just this past week, more than 140 people were arrested  while protesting the Dakota Access oil pipeline (DAPL), a $3.8 billion project that would cut across Native American tribal land in North Dakota. 

But despite the growing controversy, neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton have said much about it. Clinton last week issued a brief statement  supporting the Standing Rock Sioux tribe's right to protest, but she ultimately didn't take a position on the pipeline. From Donald Trump's campaign, there's been radio silence.  

Trump gives and receives money from pipeline company

It's not unreasonable to think that Trump would support the DAPL. The Republican presidential nominee's energy policy platform  calls for expanding the use of domestic fossil fuels -- and the DAPL would bring fracked crude oil from the Bakken fields in North Dakota to markets across the country.

But Trump also has an extensive, mutually beneficial financial relationship with the company behind the massive project. 

Trump's personal investments in ETF

Over the course of the presidential election, Trump has both given to and has received money from Energy Transfer Partners, the operators of the controversial pipeline. 

Trump's most recent <b>personal financial disclosure</b>  shows he has between $500,000 and $1 million invested in the company. Trump also has between $500,000 to $1 million worth of holdings in Phillips 66, a Texas-based energy company which will have a 25 percent stake in the DAPL once it's completed.

ETF's investments in Trump

At the same time, Energy Transfer Partners' top executive has donated substantially to Trump's campaign. 

First reported by The Guardian, federal campaign finance reports  show ETF chief executive Kelcy Warren has given more than $100,000 to Trump over the course of the campaign. Warren gave Trump $300 during the primaries, and the maximum allowed personal donation of $2,700 in the general phase of the election.

Riley Keough, second from right, the eldest grandchild of Elvis and Priscilla Presley and actress Susan Sarandon, right, applaud during a rally outside the US District Court in Washington, Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2016, in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their lawsuit against the Army Corps of Engineers to protect their water and land from the Dakota Access Pipeline. A federal judge in Washington considered a request by the Standing Rock Sioux for a temporary injunction against an oil pipeline under construction near their reservation straddling the North Dakota-South Dakota border. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Warren also donated $100,000 to the Trump Victory Fund, a joint fundraising committee that benefits Trump's candidacy as well as the Republican National Committee and several state Republican parties. 

An ethical problem for Trump

Again, it makes a good amount of policy sense that Warren would donate extensively to Trump and the Republican Party. Both have expressed a willingness to expand domestic oil production, while Democrats tend to lean more toward transitioning away from fossil fuels. 

But for ethics experts, it's Trump's personal investment in ETF that's likely to be problematic -- representing one of many examples  of how Trump could personally profit from the policy decisions he makes if he takes the White House.

Trump hasn't responded 

"Public officials need to be making decisions that are in the public interest, that are in the best interest of the American people. Not decisions that are in their own financial interests," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told ThinkProgress  in June. 

Richard Painter, the former ethics attorney for president George W. Bush, told Circa he would advise Trump to get rid of the investments to avoid a conflict of interest.

The voters will decide whether [Trump's investments are] appropriate or not.
Richard Painter

Ethics attorney: 'get rid of' the investment

"I'd advise him to get rid of all the specific financial holdings that create conflict of interest with governance policies. Whether it's real estate, foreign holdings, or a pipeline," Painter said.

Painter noted, however, that it would not be illegal for Trump to hold investments that could pose a conflict of interest with the presidency, because federal conflict of interest laws do not apply to the president.

Trump has not pledged to get rid of his investments if he's president.

Trump's campaign did not immediately respond to Circa's request for comment.

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