Since May 2017, GAB has been tracking 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, and providing monthly updates on media reports of such issues. After a lapse of a few months during this past summer, we’re again updating the tracker on a monthly basis. The October 2018 update is now available here. Notable additions since the previous update include:
- Reports that Trump’s Bedminster Golf Club offered discounts to President Trump’s White House staff on branded golf club merchandise, apparently to encourage White House staff to wear Bedminster apparel as a way of promoting the resort and the brand.
- Reports that President Trump has been personally involved in plans regarding the construction of a new FBI headquarters, including suspicions that President Trump may have interceded to ensure that the new headquarters would be built at the same location as the current headquarters, across the street from the Trump International Hotel, rather than at a larger and more secure location in the suburbs, because the Trump hotel benefits financially from its proximity to FBI headquarters.
- Reports that administration officials with financial or processional ties to the steel industry have been exercising their influence to deny tariff exclusions to companies applying for such exclusions under Trump’s new steel tariffs.
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.
Thanks for this, Professor Stephenson. The latter two instances, especially, are extremely disturbing–regardless of their legality. The first instance, however–offering aides discounts at one of his course’s golf pro shop–is something that I can’t imagine came from the top down. I’m no political supporter of President Trump, but I can’t imagine something as menial as discounts at a golf pro shop would be something that occupies the mental bandwidth of POTUS. More likely, I would imagine that this was a poorly conceived gesture by someone close to the President to show appreciation for the WH staffers. Nonetheless, it’s troubling that anyone that close to POTUS would think that this was a good idea–if for no reason other than the poor optics of it. Furthermore, it’s troubling to think that WH staffers would think it appropriate to accept such discounts, given all the gift-receiving and ethics laws that apply (which they likely have received training on).
I agree that the first incident, taken on its own, is small potatoes, and the decision was unlikely to have involved the president or anyone particularly high up (though who knows?). As you imply, though, the fact that anyone would think that this was a good idea seems like evidence of the deterioration in the ethical norms that would ordinarily apply. The whole “canary in the coal mine” thing is a tired cliche, I know, but in this case it seems apt. Sometimes the little, obvious problems are indicators of a bigger, latent problem.