WASHINGTON – President-elect Donald Trump sold all of his stocks in June as he plunged into the costly general election campaign, his transition team abruptly announced Tuesday. His advisers provided no proof of the transactions and would not explain the apparent sell-off.
The announcement comes amid swirling questions about potential conflicts of interest between Trump's expansive financial holdings and the decisions that will reach his desk as president. Some details of Trump's finances are unknown given that he never released his tax returns during the presidential campaign, breaking decades of precedent.
On Tuesday, Trump said the government should cancel its multibillion-dollar order with Boeing for new Air Force One presidential planes. Asked on a conference call with reporters whether Trump had investments in Boeing, spokesman Jason Miller said the president-elect had sold all of his stocks in June.
Trump's campaign did not announce the sell-off at the time, despite the fact that it could have been politically advantageous for the businessman to be seen taking steps to avoid potential conflicts of interest.
Miller, as well as other transition officials and lawyers from the Trump Organization, did not respond to requests from The Associated Press to provide evidence of the transactions.
As of May, Trump reported owning millions of dollars' worth of individual stocks, though he had more money in company specific investments through bonds, mutual funds and private equity investments, according to his 104-page public financial disclosure, which all presidential candidates are required to file. It's not clear whether the comments Tuesday referenced Trump's nonstock holdings.
Trump reported in May an investment in Boeing worth between $50,000 and $100,000. Other investments were in companies — such as Ford Motor Co., V F Corp. and Thermo Fisher Scientific — that in recent years have moved jobs outside the U.S., a practice that Trump heavily criticized during the campaign.
The disclosure also showed Trump held a small amount of stock in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners and at least $100,000 in the energy company Phillips 66, both of which are involved in the disputed Dakota Access oil pipeline. Earlier this week, the Army declined to issue a permit for the pipeline to cross the Missouri River reservoir in North Dakota. Trump supports construction of the pipeline, and aides say he will review the project after taking office.
All presidents since Ronald Reagan have filed public financial disclosures in their first year in office, though they weren't required to do so until their second year. For Trump, that means he won't have to file another disclosure until mid-2018 unless he chooses to file earlier.
At the time of Trump's apparent June stocks sell-off, the businessman was immersed in the expensive general election campaign. He'd poured more than $47 million of his own money into the primary campaign through a series of loans.
But in June, he adjusted his self-investment strategy, according to federal campaign finance filings. That month, Trump slowed his giving, making monthly campaign donations of about $2 million as his campaign came to rely more heavily on outside donations. He made a late $10 million investment in the final days leading up to the election.
During the first general election debate in September, Trump took a decidedly bleak view of the stock market and the possibility of the Federal Reserve raising short-term interest rates.
"We're in a bubble right now," he said. "And the only thing that looks good is the stock market, but if you raise interest rates even a little bit, that's going to come crashing down."
Market watchers expect the Fed to raise rates next week in recognition of the improving job market.