President Donald Trump’s company paid more than $150,000 to the Treasury Department in February to head off allegations that it is improperly accepting money from foreign governments.
The Trump Organization paid Treasury $151,470, which it says is the sum of its profits derived from foreign government payments to Trump hotels and resorts in 2017. That total was reported last month, but records obtained by The Daily Beast through a Freedom of Information Act request confirm Treasury’s receipt of the funds.
“The Trump Organization is pleased to make this voluntary donation to the U.S. government and requests that it be deposited into the ‘Gifts to the United States’ account for the unconditioned and general use of the federal government,” wrote Sherri Dillon, an attorney for the company, in a letter dated February 22.
But groups that have scrutinized President Trump’s conflicts of interest in office were not satisfied by the payment, saying there is no mechanism for determining its accuracy.
“There’s no transparency as to how they arrived at the number, how profits were calculated, or where the profits came from,” said Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for the left-leaning watchdog group Citizens For Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. The group is one of a number of plaintiffs in ongoing lawsuits alleging that the payments violate a provision of the U.S. Constitution that bars federal officials from receiving payments—or “emoluments”—from foreign governments.
“Even if they were giving the full amount, which we're pretty sure they are not, it would not solve President Trump's foreign emoluments issue, as the Constitution bans the mere acceptance of them," Libowitz said in an email.
Public records indicate that revenue from foreign government tenants and customer is far higher than the profit the company says it earned from those payments. Two foreign government-owned companies alone currently pay an estimated $1,990,000 in annual rent to two Trump properties, according to a recent Forbes report.
Those rent payments are not included in the sum of foreign government payments compiled by the Trump Organization for the purposes of tallying “donation of profits from foreign government patronage,” according to documents provided to congressional investigators. The company is only including profits from stays at its hotels in that total, not payments for meals or commercial office space.
But those sums are considerable in their own right.
Trump’s hotel in Washington DC also received $270,000 from the government of Saudi Arabia in late 2016 and early 2017, according to records on file with the Department of Justice.
In addition to CREW’s lawsuit, Trump is facing litigation from the governments of Maryland and Washington DC, which are also challenging the constitutionality of Trump’s continued interests in businesses that receive payments from foreign governments.
Upon taking office, Trump put his business assets into a trust that is managed by his two adult sons. But his refusal to divest those assets completely has fueled allegations of a conflict of interest between his official duties as president and his company’s financial interests.