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Icahn said in a letter to Trump released Friday 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.”
The news comes on the heels of the ousting of White House chief strategist Steve Bannon on Friday.
Read the full letter below.
Dear Mr. President:
This will confirm our conversation today in which we agreed that I would cease to act as special advisor to the President on issues relating to regulatory reform.
As I discussed with you, I’ve received a number of inquiries over the last month regarding the recent appointment of Neomi Rao as Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (or “regulatory czar,” as the press has dubbed her) – specifically questions about whether there was any overlap between her formal position and my unofficial role. As I know you are aware, the answer to that question is an unequivocal no, for the simple reason that I had no duties whatsoever.
I never had a formal position with your administration nor a policymaking role. And contrary to the insinuations of a handful of your Democratic critics, I never had access to nonpublic information or profited from my position, nor do I believe that my role presented conflicts of interest. Indeed, out of an abundance of caution, the only issues I ever discussed with you were broad matters of policy affecting the refining industry. I never sought any special benefit for any company with which I have been involved, and have only expressed views that I believed would benefit the refining industry as a whole.
Nevertheless, I chose to end this arrangement (with your blessing) because I did not want partisan bickering about my role to in any way cloud your administration or Ms. Rao’s important work. While I do not know Ms. Rao and played no part in her appointment, I am confident based on what I’ve read of her accomplishments that she is the right person for this important job.
I sincerely regret that because of your extremely busy schedule, as well as my own, I have not had the opportunity to spend nearly as much time as I’d hoped on regulatory issues. I truly appreciate the confidence you have in me and sincerely hope that the limited insights I shared have been helpful to you. I love our country which has allowed me to achieve so much and I thank you for the informal opportunity you have given me to aid it.
CARL C. ICAHN
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