After the 8 November 2016 election of Donald Trump, and amidst the backdrop of ongoing protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, rumors circulated that the President-elect owned a stake in the Dakota Access Pipeline.
On 29 November 2016 the blog Gothamist published a piece about Trump’s stock in the pipeline’s parent company, Energy Transfer Partners:
Donald Trump, who the American public somehow recently elected to be president, owns stock in at least one of the companies behind the contested Dakota Access oil pipeline, a piece of infrastructure across stolen Native American land, completion of which the Obama administration has provisionally blocked.
Financial disclosure forms filed by Trump in May show that he owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in the Texas company Energy Transfer Partners, which is building the pipeline. The project has drawn protesters from more than 300 indigenous tribes from across the Americas, as well as non-native demonstrators such as the Bronx woman at risk of losing her arm from what activists have described as a police-thrown concussion grenade. A disclosure made a year earlier showed that Trump owned between $500,000 and $1 million in Energy Transfer Partners stock at that time.
On 25 November 2016, CBS reported that additional stock owned by Trump exacerbated the conflict:
Trump’s 2016 federal disclosure forms show he owned between $15,000 and $50,000 in stock in Texas-based Energy Transfer Partners. That’s down from between $500,000 and $1 million a year earlier.
Trump also owns between $100,000 and $250,000 in Phillips 66, which has a one-quarter share of Dakota Access.
While Trump’s stake in the pipeline company is modest compared with his other assets, ethics experts say it’s among dozens of potential conflicts that could be resolved by placing his investments in a blind trust, a step Trump has resisted … The 1,200-mile pipeline would carry oil across four states to a shipping point in Illinois. The project has been held up while the Army Corps of Engineers consults with the Standing Rock Sioux, who believe the project could harm the tribe’s drinking water and Native American cultural sites.
Most stories published in November 2016 cited financial disclosure forms filed in May 2016, well before Trump’s Republican Party nomination and general election win. Both ETP (page 37) and Phillips 66 (page 43) were found in a 92-page long disclosure report published by CNN on 22 July 2015.
ABC’s report made note of the fact that Trump’s stake in various companies did not appear to prevent him from criticizing them or their subsidiaries on the campaign trail, and speculated that such assets would be placed in a blind trust should he be elected.
Interests in energy were noted, but ETP was not mentioned by name:
Trump Has Invested in Several Companies He Says He Doesn’t Like: The report also shows investments by Trump in companies like Apple and Amazon, as well as the parent company of Oreo — all of which he has attacked on the campaign trail.
Like any wealthy investor, Trump holds large stakes in sectors that are often the topic of big political disputes, like energy and health care. He has hundreds of thousands of dollars tied up in energy companies like Exxon, Phillips 66 and NextEra Energy. He’s also invested in biopharmaceutical companies like Celgene and technology companies like Gilead Sciences, Microsoft and Google.
None of these investments are uncommon, but they highlight why some candidates turn their financial interests over to blind trusts once in office. Energy and healthcare are two industries particularly dependent on government contracts and grants, and they’re perennial campaign issues. Trump also reported at least $15,000 of income off an asset with the province of Quebec. He also reports having more than $100,000 invested in gold.
It appears that a stake in ETP or Phillips 66 was just one of many that required attention prior to Trump’s January 2017 inauguration.
On 25 November 2016, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks addressed the claim with a general statement about handling potential business conflicts:
A spokeswoman for Trump, Hope Hicks, provided a statement about conflicts of interest to The Associated Press on Friday: “We are in the process of vetting various structures with the goal of the immediate transfer of management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump as well as a team of highly skilled executives. This is a top priority at the organization and the structure that is ultimately selected will comply with all applicable rules and regulations.”
However, on 22 November 2016, Hicks maintained that Trump had sold off his ETP shares months before:
President-elect Donald Trump sold off his shares of Energy Transfer Partners, the owner of the $3.7 billion Dakota Access pipeline that has become the focus of protests by Native American and environmental groups, according to his spokeswoman Hope Hicks.
Trump’s share, which in a May 2015 disclosure was listed at between $500,000 and $1 million, had fallen to less than $50,000 by the time he sold it in the summer of 2016, according to a disclosure earlier this year.
The sale would eliminate one possible conflict of interest for Trump, who has vowed to speed up permits for oil and gas pipelines in order to spur more oil and gas development in the United States.
The shares were one of innumerable financial interests marked to go into a blind trust. Hicks also affirmed a “goal of the immediate transfer of management of The Trump Organization and its portfolio of businesses to Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric Trump as well as a team of highly skilled executives.” Although she maintained that Trump intended to transfer all business interests to family members or executives, she also said that ETP was unequivocally not one of those interests.