Newly inaugurated US President Donald Trump, a New York-based real estate mogul and investor, has relinquished all involvement in his businesses, The Trump Organization said Monday.
A company spokesperson says that Trump last week "resigned from all positions of management and authority with The Trump Organization and its affiliates."
Trump further "transferred title, management and authority of those companies to a trust, or subsidiaries thereof," that are "collectively managed" by his sons, Don and Eric Trump, and long-time Trump Organization executive and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, the statement says.
The step was taken Thursday, on the eve of Trump's presidential inauguration, and was "consistent" with plans outlined by the then president-elect in a January 11 press conference at his Trump Tower headquarters in Manhattan, the spokesperson said.
The announcement followed a non-governmental watchdog group's allegation that Trump's failure to fully divest his business interests will allow him to illegally profit from foreign governments.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) filed a lawsuit in US federal court in New York City on Monday - Trump's first full weekday as president - accusing him of violating a constitutional ban on US officials profiting in any way from foreign governments.
CREW alleges that, through his investments abroad - including the international Trump hotel chain - the president is making money and receiving other benefits from foreign governments.
Trump told reporters in the Oval Office that the lawsuit is "totally without merit."
CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz told dpa that the annoucement that Trump had relinquished title, management and authority over his businesses did not affect the issues in the group's lawsuit.
"The legal problem for the president wasn't management. Of course he resigned - the presidency of the United States is most certainly a full time job," CREW spokesman Jordan Libowitz told dpa.
"The problem is ownership. He maintains ownership, so he continues to receive emoluments from foreign governments. This changes nothing."
The so-called emoluments clause is part of the original text of the US Constitution adopted in 1788: "No person holding any office of profit or trust under [the United States], shall, without the consent of the Congress, accept of any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state."
Emoluments refer to any kind of financial benefit or compensation.
CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said the group had hoped that Trump would "take the necessary steps" to comply with the emoluments clause and separate himself from his businesses before taking office.
"He did not," Bookbinder said. "His constitutional violations are immediate and serious, so we were forced to take legal action."
The emoluments clause has never been tested in court.
"President Trump has made his slogan 'America First,'" Bookbinder said. "So you would think he would want to strictly follow the Constitution's foreign emoluments clause, since it was written to ensure our government officials are thinking of Americans first, and not foreign governments."
CREW chairman Norman Eisen, former chief of the White House ethics office under Trump's predecessor, president Barack Obama, said Monday in broadcast interviews that the group hopes to gain access to Trump's unreleased personal income tax documents as part of the discovery process, if the court allows the case to proceed.
Trump is the first major-party presidential nominee in decades to refuse to release his tax returns, citing legal advice related to an ongoing audit by the Internal Revenue Service.
The New York real estate mogul has said that he is continuously audited due to a personal fortune that he says totals several billion dollars. It is unlear why the publication of his tax records - as already submitted to the federal tax agency - would have any affect on his audit.
Trump senior advisor Kellyanne Conway told ABC News on Sunday that the president will not release his returns.