Speed Reads


Trump's company says it donated profits from 'foreign government patronage,' won't disclose any details

On Monday, the Trump Organization said it had donated its 2017 profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, but declined to say how much it had donated, how it had calculated that amount, or which foreign governments had paid the Trump Organization. "Although not a legal requirement, this voluntary donation fulfills our pledge to donate profits from foreign government patronage at our hotels and similar business during President Trump's term in office," George Sorial, the company's chief compliance officer, said in a statement. The amount, donated last Thursday, was "calculated in accordance with our policy and the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry," he added.

That isn't very helpful, The Wall Street Journal explains. "The Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry is a set of standards for lodging businesses' financial statements, which outlines a system for tracking customers but not their professions, and "it isn't clear whether that system provides any means for companies to identify customers who work for foreign governments." The governments of Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Kuwait have all paid for lodging or events at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., either directly or indirectly.

And it isn't clear whether paying the profits from "foreign government patronage" is "a legal requirement" or not, since no president has declined to relinquish ownership in his businesses like Trump has. Some legal scholars say Trump's continued ownership of the company violates the Constitution's "foreign emoluments clause," which prohibits federal officials from accepting gifts or "emoluments" from foreign countries.

"No matter the size of the check they write, it doesn't change the fact that foreign interests are spending money to line the president's pocket," said Adam Smith at the transparency advocacy organization Every Voice. "Their lack of transparency on this process doesn't give me a lot of confidence that the check truly reflects the full profit Trump is making from foreign interests."