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ISSUE
Trump's Enrichment

Published:2017-Apr-07
Last Updated:2017-Apr-07
Principal Writer:Rob Dennis and Barry Shatzman

Issue Sections

Understanding The Issue
Issue Status
What You Can Do

Reported News

Gov: The President

Related Bills

Make Access Records Available to Lead American Government Openness Act

2017 (HR-1711)

No Taxpayer Revenue Used to Monetize the Presidency Act

2017 (HR-1452)

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Is Donald Trump profiting by being kept safe?

As president, Donald Trump presents unique logistical challenges. He spends much time on his own properties and his immediate family - who all receive Secret Service protection - can be at diverse places on the globe at any one time.

So it's no secret that President Trump has been more expensive to protect than any previous president. The cost itself poses no legal issue. Whether the money is being used to enrich Trump and his family, however, does.

The more Trump flew, the more his wallet grew

The Secret Service paid $6 million to cover the cost of agents traveling with the Trump campaign. That's routine for the agency - reimbursing presidential campaigns for the costs of traveling with them.

When Trump flew, it was with TAG Air, Inc. The Trump campaign paid almost $9 million to fly on the charter airline - $6 million of which was reimbursed by the Secret Service. Since TAG Air is one of Trump's companies - the $9 million (including the $6 million of public money), went to Donald Trump.

Trump still reaps profits from his businesses

The flow of money from taxpayers to Trump businesses has continued after he took office.  

Trump has refused to divest himself of his assets, instead moving them into a trust controlled by Allen Weisselberg - his chief financial officer - and two of Trump's sons, Donald Jr. and Eric.

The trust's purpose, it states, "is to hold assets for the benefit of Donald J. Trump." Trump can withdraw money at any time.  

"They're not going to discuss it with me," Trump said in January about his sons and the new arrangement. But Eric Trump later admitted that he continues to update his father about the business.

Trump's travel on track for hundreds of millions

All presidents travel, and the costs can add up quickly. Air Force One alone costs more than $200,000 an hour to operate. The Secret Service - required to protect the president at all times - must pay for the space they use in private residences and other facilities.   And Trump has been on the move a lot. He has visited his properties one out of every three days he's been in office, and is on pace to spend hundreds of millions of dollars in just one four-year term.

The Secret Service has asked for an extra $60 million for the next fiscal year alone.

As a comparison, former president Barack Obama, whom Trump criticized as a "habitual vacationer," spent an average of about $12 million a year in travel.

Trump spent an estimated $10 million on just three trips to his Mar-a-Lago luxury resort in Florida in his first four weeks as president. After Trump was elected, he doubled the membership fee at Mar-a-Lago.

Public money going through Trump's companies enriches Trump

Because Trump spends so much time at his own properties, and because he continues to benefit from his businesses, taxpayer money is going to the president through his company. Just how much money, though, is unclear.

The Secret Service sought $33 million in extra funding for next year to pay for travel costs incurred by the president, vice president and visiting heads of state, the Washington Post reported. Every trip to Mar-a-Lago costs an estimated $3 million; the Secret Service has not disclosed the exact costs or where the money is spent.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Mar-a-Lago in February, and Chinese President Xi Jinping went there this month for a two-day summit.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) is investigating how much is being spent by the Secret Service, members of the administration and staff on hotel rooms and other expenses for Trump's trips to Mar-a-Lago.

Since taking office, Trump also has visited two of his golf courses in Florida, one in New Jersey and one in Virginia. He has dined twice at his hotel in Washington, D.C.

Family presents uncharted costs

Trump's children receive round-the-clock Secret Service protection as well, and their frequent business travel abroad provides another source of taxpayer expense - as well as publicity and possibly income for Trump.

In January, Eric Trump traveled to Uruguay to promote the Trump Tower Punta del Este, a condominium project. In February, he traveled to the Dominican Republic to try to revive a Trump luxury resort there. That same month, Donald Jr. and Eric traveled to the United Arab Emirates for the grand opening of the Trump International Golf Course, and opened a new Trump hotel and condominium tower in Vancouver, B.C.

In addition, the Secret Service is spending millions more than usual protecting Trump's wife Melania, who opted to live with their son Barron at Trump Tower in New York. The Post reported that the agency has asked for $26.8 million extra for next year to pay for this unexpected expense, which "would probably include costs for command centers, agents' room and board, communications ex­penses and rental space."

The agency is renting space at Trump Tower for offices and temporary sleeping quarters -- payments that will go to Trump - but the details haven't been made public, the New York Times reported. A Melania Trump adviser said the first lady will move to the White House at the end of the school year.

The Secret Service requests for additional funding were rejected by the White House's Office of Management and Budget, according to the Post, and the agency will have to come up with the money from elsewhere, snagging funding from investigations into cybercrimes, counterfeiting and missing and exploited minors.  

The Times reported that the Secret Service is pulling agents from criminal investigations to keep up with protecting Trump and his family.

Trump dealings appear to violate the Constitution

The domestic emoluments clause of the Constitution specifically prohibits the president from receiving any government compensation other than a salary.

The Constitution contains a similar prohibition against the president receiving any emoluments from a foreign government. Some of Trump's business dealings may be in violation of that, also.

Among those leasing space at Trump Tower in New York, for instance, are the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, which is owned by the Chinese government, and the Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, which is owned by the United Arab Emirates government.

A week after the Nov. 8 election, a special event was held for about 100 foreign diplomats at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. The hotel has hired a "director of diplomatic sales" to arrange business with foreign states.

The Embassy of Kuwait held its National Day celebration at the hotel in February, and Bahrain and Azerbaijan also booked the hotel for events in December. Kaha Imnadze, the Georgian ambassador to the United Nations, tweeted a glowing review of the hotel.

Similar issues arise at dozens of other Trump properties in the United States and internationally.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) is suing Trump "to stop the president from violating the Constitution by illegally receiving payments from foreign governments." Former chief ethics counsel for Barack Obama Norm Eisen, former George W. Bush ethics adviser Richard Painter, and constitutional law professor Laurence Tribe are among the lawyers representing CREW in the case.

Trump promised mitigation. What has he delivered?

Trump said in January that he would donate profits earned from foreign governments at his hotels to the U.S. Treasury, although he provided no details on how this would be done.  

The Government Accountability Office is investigating whether the Treasury Department has received any such payments from Trump.


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