WASHINGTON >> President Donald Trump has lost another informal adviser from the business world: billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who gave the White House guidance on its deregulation efforts.
Icahn said in a letter to Trump released today that he is stepping down to prevent “partisan bickering” about his unofficial role that Democrats suggested could benefit him financially. Trump lost a pair of business advisory councils on Wednesday over his inability to condemn the role white supremacists played in violence last weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia.
But Icahn — who made his name and fortune as a corporate raider in the 1980s — indicated that his resignation was due to criticism regarding the appearance of possible ethical conflicts.
“I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest,” Icahn wrote.
He added that, out of an abundance of caution, he had limited his input to broad matters of policy about the oil-refining industry. Icahn controls a sizable stake in refiner CVR Energy. As an unofficial adviser, Icahn wasn’t required to submit financial records to the Office of Government Ethics to address any conflicts of interest.
Icahn also said he was stepping down because he didn’t want to cloud the work of Neomi Rao, who as head of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is the administration’s point person on regulations.
On the campaign trail, Trump praised Icahn as the kind of tenacious dealmaker that he would bring into his administration.
At an August 2015 event in South Carolina, Trump called Icahn “one of the best” and indicated that he might be in charge of negotiating U.S. trade deals.
“If I put Carl in charge of Japan, ‘Carl, handle Japan trade deals,’” Trump said. “It’s over, just walk away, let him run the — oh, forget it. They even know that they don’t have a chance. OK? It’s over.”