UNITED STATES (VOP TODAY NEWS) – Despite announcing in January 2017 that he would separate himself from his business empire, Donald Trump still profits from his numerous ventures. Perhaps the most glaring example is how more than 150 tenants, ranging from big banks and lobby groups to foreign governments, pay a combined $175 million each year for leases in his New York and San Francisco properties.
Trump’s recent imposition of custom duties on Chinese products notwithstanding, the Chinese government is still paying a $1.9 million lease to the commander-in-chief for space in Trump Tower, NY.
The Chinese government owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), the largest bank in the world by asset, rents a space on the 20th floor of Trump Tower in Manhattan. Dozens of other commercial tenants reside in Trump’s Manhattan properties, paying sky-high rental prices to his property business. Yoreevo claims that New York is the most valuable real estate market in the country, with over $23 billion transactions completed every year, and this gives Trump a lot of power over his tenants. And it is not just in New York that this conflict is present. The Bank of India, also state owned, pays an estimated $90,000 per year at the 555 California Street property in San Francisco. This represents an unprecedented conflict of interest for the presidency.
Trump continues to profit from political allies and the federal government alike. Trump’s Mar-a-Largo resort in Palm Beach doubled its membership rate to $200,000 shortly following his election. In his first 514 days in office alone, CNBC reported how Trump visited his properties around the country on 159 of those days, using the presidential office to boost profits for his businesses. While previous presidents have divested their holdings into blind trusts, which involves selling all assets with profits to investments where the president has no knowledge or control, Trump has essentially done the opposite. This violates the emolument clause of the United States Constitution.
Among other aspects, the clause restricts members of the government, including the President, from receiving gifts, emoluments, offices or titles from foreign states. Its purpose was to insulate the republic from corrupting foreign influences. Yet, by continuing to hold stakes in private companies, which benefit from presidential action, this is a clear violation of this clause. Moreover, after becoming president, an investigation by USA Today revealed that 70% of the buyers of Trump properties were limited liability (LLC) shell companies, which do not divulge buyers’ identities. This is in stark contrast to LLC’s making up only 4% of buyers before Trump ran for office.
ICBC’s example could potentially have massive implications as their lease runs out in 2019 and is open to re-negotiations any time prior. Deals like this one could influence Trump’s decisions as he negotiates with China on trade, tariffs and matters of national security. Trump also boosted his holdings’ profits by spending over a quarter of his first in office at his properties and golf clubs. His numerous campaign events at his properties in 2017 cost taxpayers over $720,000 and Secret Service golf-cart rentals over $137,000. Not having divested from his business interests, Trump is showing that he cares more about his businesses than the laws he his sworn to protect.