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Trump Jr. to Trib: Dad will 'separate' from business interests if elected

Tom Fontaine
| Wednesday, Sept. 14, 2016, 7:39 p.m.

Donald Trump Jr. dismissed a new report Wednesday that his family's international business interests could present conflicts and ethical quandaries should his father be elected president.

"My father is going to be a government official, and he's going to separate himself" from the Trump Organization's business interests, Trump Jr., 38, said during a meeting with Tribune-Review editors and reporters.

Trump Jr., who helped open a Pennsylvania campaign office in Washington County in the morning, said creating a blind trust would prevent the elder Trump from knowing how the company's assets are managed.

Trump Jr., the Trump Organization's executive vice president, said he and other family members involved in the company would not be part of their father's would-be administration and would not do business directly with foreign governments that might be inclined to give the company preferential treatment to curry favor with a Trump White House.

A Newsweek analysis published Wednesday said a blind trust would not work because "the Trump family is already aware of who their overseas partners are and could easily learn about any new ones" — an assertion Trump Jr. dismissed, saying it would work "just like it has for everyone else who's had a business and run for office."

In the wide-ranging interview, Trump Jr. described Pennsylvania as a key battle­ground state.

"It's always been sort of the elusive state for conservatives at this level," Trump Jr. said.

A Republican presidential nominee has not won Pennsylvania since 1988.

"It's incredible the amount of enthusiasm we see here. I think people are excited to see some change," said Trump Jr., who attended boarding school in Pottstown, earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania and spends many weekends in the Catskills of New York, near the Pennsylvania border.

He criticized Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over continuing questions surrounding the Clinton Foundation, including allegations that her donors received undue political influence.

"This isn't a one-time thing. It's time and time again. … There's the lies, and the lies about the lies, and then there's the lies about the lies that were lied about," Trump Jr. said before arguing that some of the former secretary of State's lies "have cost people their lives."

When asked for an example, Trump Jr. said, "I'd say talking about Benghazi, inaction in Benghazi (where four Americans died in attacks by Islamic militants in 2012). … I think (lying) after the fact is a big enough deal in a situation like that when you have Americans abroad."

Trump Jr.'s father has not had a great track record in telling the truth on the campaign trail, according to the Pulitzer Prize-winning fact-check website PolitiFact. The website has investigated about 250 claims Trump and Clinton each made. The website found that his claims, 70 percent of the time, were found to be at least mostly false or worse, while hers were false or mostly false 28 percent of the time.

"I would argue that PolitiFact is a very liberal organization," Trump Jr. said.

He also took exception to statements made about Trump by former Secretary of State Colin Powell in emails that were leaked Wednesday. Powell called Trump "a national disgrace" and "an international pariah."

"He probably doesn't know my father, and he doesn't know the guy that I know," Trump Jr. said. "I don't think he has the ability to comment on it intelligibly."

When asked why his father has not released his tax returns as presidential candidates have traditionally done, Trump Jr. said, "Because he's got a 12,000-page tax return that would create … financial auditors out of every person in the country asking questions that would distract from (his father's) main message."

The latest poll on the race, released last week by Connecticut's Quinnipiac University, showed Clinton holding a 5 percentage point lead over Trump among likely voters in Pennsylvania.

NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to correct a quote, changing the word "detract" to "distract." Trump used the word "detract" in the same context a few moments after the words quoted.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

Donald Trump Jr. talks about his father's campaign with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the Trib's office on the North Shore, Wednesday, September 14, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Donald Trump Jr. talks about his father's campaign with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the Trib's office on the North Shore, Wednesday, September 14, 2016.
Donald Trump Jr. talks about his father's campaign with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the Trib's office on the North Shore, Wednesday, September 14, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Donald Trump Jr. talks about his father's campaign with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the Trib's office on the North Shore, Wednesday, September 14, 2016.
Donald Trump Jr. talks about his father's campaign with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the Trib's office on the North Shore, Wednesday, September 14, 2016.
Andrew Russell | Tribune-Review
Donald Trump Jr. talks about his father's campaign with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review at the Trib's office on the North Shore, Wednesday, September 14, 2016.
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