Will the Trumps be able to separate businesses from government?

WASHINGTON -- CBS News has learned that Donald Trump’s transition team is exploring how the president-elect’s children could receive top secret security clearances.

While nepotism rules prevent a president from hiring family to work in the White House, relatives could still serve as unpaid national security advisers with access to the nation’s top secrets.

The unprecedented request adds to other ethical questions, like how Trump will separate his administration from his businesses, which will be run by his children.

In an interview from Sunday’s “60 Minutes” Trump told Lesley Stahl that his children will not consult him on their business decisions.

“They won’t talk to me. Now, the laws are very soft on this whole matter. I don’t have to do anything. I, I don’t know if you know this, I don’t have to do anything,” Trump said.

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Larry Noble

CBS News

There are no rules to prevent conflicts of interest for presidents. But historically, they’ve chosen to put their investments in a blind trust.

“A real blind trust would be one where he picked a third party, independent third party, to manage his investments. He would not know what’s going on there,” said Larry Noble, an ethics watchdog.

“What that is is just turning your business interests over to your family, which is very close to you,” Noble said.

The arrangement doesn’t solve conflicts like Trump’s relationship with Deutsche Bank, to which he owes more than $300 million. 

The bank is in multi-billion-dollar settlement negotiations with the Justice Department for trading in toxic mortgages; The talks could last into the Trump’s administration.

There’s also Trump’s new hotel in the Old Post Office Building in Washington, which is leased from the federal government.

Even the tenants in his building pose a conflict, like the state-run Chinese bank that’s paying rent to lease space on the 20th floor of Trump Tower. It means a foreign government is putting money in the hands of the president and his family.

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    Julianna Goldman is a CBS News correspondent based in the Washington bureau.