NEW YORK — In the aftermath of President-elect Donald Trump's closely watched news conference, a burning question remains: What, exactly, was in those folders stacked on the desk next to him?
The campaign wouldn't let reporters look at them. Trump never got around to discussing the documents. Some of the folders weren't labeled.
That leaves it possible the public won't ever know precisely what the pile of papers was — other than another of Trump's stage props.
The former reality-TV star with a flair for showmanship has a clear affinity for the political prop. He's appeared with marbled steaks; one of his "Make America Great Again" hats displayed in a glass case; and a 50-foot Christmas tree, intended to underscore his vow to trade what he believed was the politically correct greeting of "Happy Holidays" for his preferred "Merry Christmas."
On Wednesday, the six stacks of manila folders were full of the documentation and agreements making official his decision to turn his sprawling business empire over to his sons, Don Jr. and Eric, Trump said. With great flourish, four young staffers carried the piles — in front of snapping cameras — and placed them on the table next to Trump's podium in the minutes before the start of the news conference, his first since July.
"These papers are just some of the many documents that I've signed turning over complete and total control to my sons," Trump said Wednesday in the lobby of Trump Tower.
But neither Trump nor his lawyer ever picked up, displayed or referenced specifically any of the documents inside. After the news conference concluded, transition staffers blocked reporters from looking at them. And some photos of the news conference show folders without labels and, in some cases, seemingly blank pages inside, setting off a torrent of speculation on social media.
Transition officials noted that the Trump business empire was large and complicated, consisting of hundreds of entities, and that a massive amount of paperwork was required. A Trump spokeswoman on Thursday flatly denied there was anything misleading about the display.
"As Mr. Trump stated at the press conference, they were just some of the documents required to transition his assets into the trust and additional restructuring," said Hope Hicks.
But Hicks did not respond to a second request for an inspection of the documents. And materials sent to reporters about the new Trump Organization structure in the hours after the news conference
It's not the first time a Trump prop has garnered unexpected attention.
He appeared at one of his Florida golf clubs in March, after a pair of primary wins, standing between two tables filled with Trump-branded products. There were bottles of Trump red, white and rose wine, cases of Trump water and two butcher blocks heaping with stacks of giant, well-marbled "Trump Steaks."
Trump, who was fuming at the time about Mitt Romney's speech that criticized his business acumen, said he wanted to show off merchandise, touting his water company and retail line.
He then moved onto the steaks.
"Trump steaks, where are the steaks? Do we have the steaks?" he said. "And by the way, you want to take one, we charge you about, what, 50 bucks a steak?"
In fact, "Trump Steaks" are no longer for sale. The venture with The Sharper Image fizzled in 2007. The labels on the steaks displayed that night appeared to match those of another company.
Reach Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire