Trump’s Washington DC hotel, Mar-a-Lago resort bank millions in new income for US president’s business empire
The US presidency is a boon for some Trump businesses
The Trump-branded hotel blocks from the White House has quickly generated almost $20 million of income for the Trump Organisation while Mar-a-Lago, the private club used as a “Southern White House,” has seen profits climb nearly 25 per cent — figures that are sure to fuel ethics advocates’ charges that US President Donald Trump is profiting off the presidency.
Trump’s 98-page financial disclosure was released unexpectedly late Friday by the Office of Government Ethics, almost a year before required and with no initial comment or explanation from the White House.
Details about the Trump International Hotel in the revamped Old Post Office building on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House are likely to become part of a growing debate over the constitutional ban on president’s receiving gifts and payments while in office — known as the emoluments clause. It requires Congress to approve any payment or gift from a foreign entity a president decides to keep.
Trump faces three lawsuits already over that ban, with groups such as Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, or CREW, and more than 200 members of Congress suing over the constitutional ban. They point to conferences held at the Washington hotel to promote US-Turkey relations, the planned celebration there of Kuwaiti National Day and numerous private gatherings in the ballroom and other facilities.
In Friday’s financial disclosure report, which reflects business during the 2016 calendar year, the Trump Old Post Office LLC cited hotel-related revenue in reporting income of $19.6 million. The hotel has been open just a few months, and in his 2016 financial-disclosure report Trump had simply offered a range between $100,000 and $1 million.
“It certainly raises the question whether the income is coming from people wanting to get the president’s attention,” said Jordan Leibowitz, spokesman for CREW.
“We can presume it’s because he’s president — the question is where is that money coming from?”
To that point, a required foreign lobbying form filed by Saudi Arabia on May 31 shows the kingdom spent $270,000 on lodging and food at the Trump International Hotel between October 2016 and March 2017.
When stating he was stepping away from his business empire earlier this year, Trump pledged to donate profits from foreign government money spent at his hotels to the US Treasury. But critics argue that isn’t happening, or at least not in a consistent, transparent fashion.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer earlier in the week dismissed those concerns as partisan bickering, and in a brief statement late Friday, he did not address them anew.
“President Trump welcomed the opportunity to voluntarily file his personal financial disclosure form; while this filing is voluntary (as no report was due until May 2018), it has been certified by the Office of Government Ethics pursuant to its normal procedures,” Spicer said.
Trump has hosted foreign leaders such as China’s president Xi Jinping at the resort, further blurring the lines between politics and Trump Organisation profits. In the five months he has been in office, Trump has visited Mar-a-Lago on 25 days and his golf clubs in Florida and in Virginia, outside Washington, on 31 days.
The 98-page document shows that being president has also apparently increased Trump’s earnings from sales of his book The Art of the Deal published in 1987 and that he resigned from positions in 565 companies on or around the day before becoming president.
His assets range from Pfizer stocks to a drinks company in Israel, but the disclosure also showed hundreds of millions of dollars in debt.
Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse