President-elect Donald Trump sold all his shares in companies in June, his spokesman said Tuesday, a move that could have created a cash windfall as he ramped up to begin a costly general election presidential campaign that at the time he claimed he would personally support with “major contributions.”
The sell-off could help address conflict-of-interest worries about his stock portfolio, a sizable part of Trump’s financial life that was worth roughly as much as $40 million as of December 2015, a May disclosure filing shows.
Trump’s stock portfolio, the May filing shows, included shares in a number of banks, oil giants and other companies with business pending before the U.S. government and whose value could rise due to Trump’s decisions in office.
Those stock holdings, ethics advisers said, offered a potentially troublesome facet of Trump’s private finances that could entangle his public decision-making. Beyond comments to The Post, Trump representatives have not provided records of stock transactions or other details since the May filing.
Trump spokesman Jason Miller, who told The Post about Trump’s stock sale Tuesday morning, did not immediately answer why Trump had sold the shares or how much he sold them for. Trump will not be required by law to file another personal financial disclosure until May 2018.
Trump’s campaign had given no indication of the sale in the five months since it apparently took place in June. As president, Trump will be subject to the STOCK Act, a law passed in 2012 that requires elected officials, including the president, to publicly disclose any stock transactions worth at least $1,000 within 45 days.
The June stock sale would have coincided with a point when Trump was pouring money into his presidential campaign. During the Republican primary, Trump loaned his campaign $47 million of his own money. In June, as the general election began, he formally forgave the loan and began making cash infusions to his campaign, first donating $2 million on June 22.
Trump then gave $2 million a month between July and August before donating $10 million in October. Much of Trump’s campaign was ultimately funded by other donors. In all, Trump gave his campaign $66 million, federal filings show – short of the $100 million that he repeatedly claimed he was spending on his race.
Miller, the Trump spokesman, told The Post about Trump’s stock sale Tuesday morning, following Trump’s criticism of aviation giant Boeing.
Trump tweeted that Boeing’s federal contract to build new Air Force One jets should be canceled because costs had gone “out of control.” Trump was once a company shareholder, tweeting in January 2013 that “@Boeing stock went way down because of 787- so I just bought stock in @Boeing- great company!”
Trump reported owning between $50,000 and $100,000 of Boeing stock in the May filing. In the three years between Trump’s original tweet about buying Boeing stock and June 2016, Boeing’s share price climbed about 70 percent.
Trump has tweeted that he will separate from his own business, the Trump Organization, but has provided no additional details other than promising to hold a press event on Dec. 15 to outline his plans.
Trump told Fox Business News in August that he was dumping stocks because he predicted the market was crashing, saying, “I did invest, and I got out, and it was actually very good timing.” Despite Trump’s August comments, stock prices have generally been on the rise since June.
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks told The Post last month that Trump had in June also sold his shares in Energy Transfer Partners, the majority stakeholder in the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline project that has drawn protests from environmentalists and Native Americans.
The Department of the Army said Sunday it would not allow the oil pipeline to be drilled further near a Standing Rock Sioux reservation, but Trump has said he supported completing the pipeline. The company’s chief executive was a major campaign donor to Trump, but its stock had declined in value in the face of protests.
Trump said in a financial filing released in May 2015 that he owned between $500,000 and $1 million worth of stock in Energy Transfer Partners. By May 2016, when Trump updated his annual filing, the value of the holding had fallen to less than $50,000.
Norm Eisen, who served as ethics counselor to President Barack Obama and has criticized Trump over his conflicts, said it would be “absolutely a step in the right direction” if Trump had sold his stock holdings in June, divesting himself of ownership in companies whose fates could be tied to his policies. But he added that it is now important to know how Trump spent the money he earned from the sale.
“We need to know, has he put them in conflict free assets . . . or has he bought other stocks or assets that would create new conflicts?” he asked. “It’s all the more reason that we need a prompt and full disclosure financial disclosure. If he did liquidate all his stocks, what did he do with the money? What bank is the money in? What did he buy? It’s a lot of money.”
He called this the latest example of the tension between Trump’s promise to drain the swamp and how he has managed his own business conflicts. “The swamp draining should begin with Trump’s own wetlands,” Eisen said.
(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Drew Harwell, Rosalind S. Helderman