Tracking Corruption and Conflicts of Interest in the Trump Administration–February 2018 Update

Last May, we launched our project to track credible allegations that President Trump, as well as his family members and close associates, are seeking to use the presidency to advance their personal financial interests.Just as President Trump’s son Eric will be providing President Trump with “quarterly” updates on the Trump Organization’s business affairs, we will do our best to provide readers with regular updates on credible allegations of presidential profiteering. Our February 2018 update is now available here.

A few highlights from the most recent update:

  • Some end-of-first year statistics:
    • During his first year in office, President Trump spent 121 days (approximately one-third of his presidency) at properties owned by the Trump Organization.
    • Trump hotels and resorts earned more than $1.2 million from bookings by Republican political groups in 2017, despite having earned less than $100,000 per year from these groups in the previous 15 years.
    • On at least 35 separate occasions, members of the Trump Administration used the government platform to promote the Trump brand.
    • Trump Organization companies sold $35 million worth of real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive buyers making the purchases through anonymous shell companies. Prior to Trump’s winning the Republican nomination, fewer than 4% of Trump Organization real estate sales were to secret buyers using this tactic. Since President Trump won the nomination, that number has jumped to 70%, and stayed there throughout his first year in office.
  • The Administration recently waived sanctions against several criminally-convicted banks–sanctions that would have barred these banks from managing pension funds and individual retirement accounts. While the grant of such waivers is not unusual, some expressed concern that one of the banks granted the waiver, Deutsche Bank, has lent President Trump billions of dollars, and also provided sizable loans to Jared Kushner, raising at least the appearance of a possible conflict of interest.
  • While many coastal states applied for exemptions from the Trump Administration’s decision to lift prohibitions on offshore drilling, the Administration granted only one exemption–for Florida. The Administration has not been able to offer a coherent explanation as to why Florida is differently situated from other states, such as California, leading many to speculate that the exemption was granted in part for political reasons (the Florida Governor is a Republican), and in part because of the Trump family’s personal financial interest in protecting Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach.
  • Shortly before President Trump and Jared Kushner made their first diplomatic trip to Israel, one of Israel’s largest financial institutions made a $30 million investment in the Kushner family’s real estate company, raising questions about whether the financial ties between Kushner and Israel might skew his diplomatic priorities and strategy.
  • A Trump Tower project in India is apparently attempting to attract buyers by advertising that the first 100 people who purchase units will be able to have a meet-and-greet with Donald Trump, Jr.

As always, we note that while we try to include only those allegations that appear credible, we acknowledge that many of the allegations that we discuss are speculative and/or contested. We also do not attempt a full analysis of the laws and regulations that may or may not have been broken if the allegations are true. For an overview of some of the relevant federal laws and regulations that might apply to some of the alleged problematic conduct, see here.

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