By Alan Zibel
Now that Republicans in Congress have released a disputed and highly controversial intelligence memo alleging (with little evidence) that the FBI abused its surveillance authority, it’s time for some more valuable transparency.
Donald Trump’s sons should immediately fulfill a promise made last year to donate to the federal government profits from foreign government payments to President Donald Trump’s Washington, D.C., hotel and other Trump Organization properties. Public Citizen made this demand in a letter sent to Trump’s sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump as well as other Trump Organization executives.
In addition, Public Citizen said the Trump Organization should explain how it is identifying payments at Trump properties from foreign governments, provide details about the payments and about the finances at Trump properties, and release a list of all events hosted by foreign governments at Trump properties.
More than one year ago, Trump attorney Sheri Dillon announced that Trump wanted to dispel conflict of interest concerns and would “voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury. This way, it is the American people who will profit.”
To date, no donation has been made. The Associated Press recently reported that Trump Organization officials will have “information to share” about the hotels near the end of this month.
“President Trump made an unprecedented and improper decision to retain his worldwide business empire and to place his sons in charge of this business,” said Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen. “His purported remedy was to make payments to the U.S. Treasury. Well, it’s time to pay up. And, even more important, it is well past time for the American people to learn which foreign governments are doing business with the Trump Organization and how much the family empire has earned from foreign government patrons during the period of President Trump’s presidency. President Trump’s White House has pushed for the release of information when it suits his political needs, but seems to think Trump himself is above openness rules and standards, even when he’s promised disclosure himself.”
Added Craig Holman, government affairs lobbyist with Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, “We are a year into President Trump’s administration and now into the second month of the calendar year. There is no reason the Trump Organization has not already made the promised contribution to the U.S. Treasury. The American people have a right to expect timely payment of that donation and some clear accounting of how the amount was calculated.”
Lawmakers have asked about the promised payment too. But the Trump Organization rebuffed a congressional request last year for information about expenditures by foreign governments at Trump properties, instead sending lawmakers an eight-page pamphlet claiming that it was “impractical” to fully identify foreign Trump organization patrons.
The methodology outlined in the pamphlet also contains key flaws, as it would not require any donation from unprofitable Trump Organization properties that receive foreign government revenue. It also would not account for foreign governments that could be paying intentionally for events or rooms above the standard market rate.
The New York Times in December reported that the sons have proceeded with Trump-branded real estate developments in India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Dubai. Governments in Indonesia and Panama are spending government funds to make Trump-branded developments a reality, raising even more conflict of interest concerns.