Story highlights

Incoming chief of staff: "We will have every 'i' dotted and every 't' crossed"

Reports suggest Donald Trump hasn't completely cut ties with his business

Washington CNN —  

Donald Trump’s soon-to-be chief of staff, Reince Priebus, said Sunday that the incoming White House counsel will be tasked with making sure there are no conflicts of interest with the real estate mogul’s business empire.

In an interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union,” Priebus said Americans shouldn’t be concerned with potential pay-to-play schemes in a Trump administration despite reports that Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, who helms part of the family’s business portfolio, sat in on Trump’s meeting last week with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“We’ve been at this for a few days. I mean, this is ridiculous. Let’s just kind of take a deep breath. The point is, what Americans should see from President-elect Trump is someone who, by being in action from the moment he was declared the winner, he was on a mission to bring everyone together,” Priebus said.

“That, to me, is what we should be celebrating. I think people should be encouraged by what they see. And I think it’s a real positive sign for the future of our country.”

Ethical minefields

Still, there are some signs Trump hasn’t completely cut ties with his business – and that foreign diplomats see Trump’s business empire as a way to win his favor.

Trump met last week with three Indian business partners building a property near Mumbai, The New York Times reported. And diplomats have been staying at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, spending money in hopes that Trump will notice, The Washington Post reported.

Tapper pressed Priebus on this topic, asking: “As White House chief of staff, you’re supposed to look out for any political or ethical minefields. Is it seriously the position of the Trump transition team that this is not a huge cauldron of potential conflicts of interest?”

00:41 - Source: CNN
Trump's possible commander-in-chief conflicts

And Priebus said: “Obviously we will comply with all of those laws and we will have our White House counsel review all of these things. We will have every ‘i’ dotted and every ‘t’ crossed, and I can assure the American people that there wouldn’t be any wrongdoing or any sort of undue influence over any decision-making.”

’Rules would benefit him’

President Barack Obama was asked about potential Trump conflicts-of-interest during a press conference in Peru, at the APEC summit.

While declining to directly respond to a question about how President-elect Trump should handle potential conflicts of interest due to his business dealings, Obama talked about what he did upon being elected in 2008. Obama said he liquidated assets that might raise questions about how they might influence policy. His accountant put all the first couple’s money in Treasury bills.

Obama also stressed following both the letter and spirit of the law and repeated that he is “extremely proud” of fact that over eight years his administration hasn’t had the kinds of scandals that have plagued other administrations.

Obama also said he advised President-elect Trump to make sure he had a strong counsel’s office to avoid ethical controversies.

“When I met with the President-elect, I suggested to him that having a strong White House counsel that could provide clear guide posts and rules would benefit him and benefit his team because it would eliminate a lot of ambiguity,” he told reporters. “I think it will be up to him to make determinations about how he wants to approach it.”

CNN’s Athena Jones contributed to this report.