WATCH | President-elect Donald Trump has said that the president "can't have a conflict of interest." Legally, he's sort of right.
Regardless, Trump tweeted Wednesday morning he would be "completely out of business operations" before being sworn in.
He has repeatedly insisted he would put his business into a "blind trust" run by his children, which did not satisfy many critics. He said he would announce more details on December 15 during a "major news conference."
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 ...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
Here are Trump's tweets on the subject. (Part 1)
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 ....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
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..— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 30, 2016
In the past few weeks, a considerable number of news organizations have shed light on Trump's potential business conflicts of interest with the presidency.
The primary concern of those reports: That instead of using the power of the presidency to craft policies that are best for the American people, Trump could craft policies that would benefit his vast business empire.
A legal loophole
But here's the thing: If Donald Trump did want to use the presidency to get rich, it would be perfectly legal.
That's because the law that requires public officials to avoid taking part in decisions that directly affect their economic interests doesn't actually apply to the president or vice president.
Thank Bush 1
For that, you can thank former President George H.W. Bush.
Before he took office, there was a criminal conflict of interest law that applied to all members of the executive branch, including the president. H.R. 8140, enacted in 1962, said public officials could not participate in actions that affect their economic well-being.
But in 1989, President Bush proposed and passed an ethics reform package that changed that.
1989 bill exempted the president
The sprawling ethics reform package included many things, including pay raises for certain members of government. But it also included an exemption "walling off the president, vice president, lawmakers and judges from conflict-of-interest provisions," Politico reported.
At the time, Politico reported, lawmakers didn't make a big deal over that specific provision.
"I don't remember this being a major issue with members of Congress," former Rep. Vic Fazio (D-CA) said.
Other presidents avoided conflicts
One of the reasons it wasn't a big issue was because, even after the 1989 bill was passed, future presidents just acted like the laws applied to them anyway.
"Every other president in recent memory has avoided financial conflicts of interest... because that’s what the public expects," Richard Painter, the former chief White House ethics attorney for President George W. Bush, told Circa.
Trump says he won't -- and he doesn't have to
But, Trump has signaled he'll be a different kind of president. Not only has no other president ever had as many business conflicts of interest as Trump, but Trump is the first president who isn't honoring the spirit of the federal conflicts of interest statute despite it not applying to him.
Specifically, Trump has said he's going to let his adult children run his businesses while he's president -- which means he still technically has an interest in his businesses.
Trump knows the law doesn't apply to him
Trump has made clear that he's aware that federal conflict of interest laws won't apply to him as president.
"The law's totally on my side: the president can't have a conflict of interest," he said in an interview with The New York Times last week. "I'd assumed that you'd have to set up some type of trust or whatever and you don't. [But] I would like to do something."