WASHINGTON, June 18, 2017 — President Trump is our wealthiest president. Recently released documents show that his assets are in excess of $1.4 billion. John F. Kennedy, followed by George Washington, take second and third places respectively as the nation’s wealthiest presidents.
A 98-page Financial Disclosure Report released by by the U.S. Office of Government Ethics reveals that from January 2016 to the spring of this year, the President earned hundreds of millions of dollars, $360 million from his resort and golf holdings with another $20 million in revenue from the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort alone, the report shows, earned $37 million. Profits from both the Trump International Hotel in D.C. and Mar-A-Lago are part of a growing debate over interpretations of the “emoluments clause,” the constitutional ban on a president’s receiving gifts and payments from foreign entities while in office.
The clause, contained in Article I, Section 9, reads:
“No Title of Nobility shall be granted by the United States: And no Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under them, shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.”
In the Washington Post, at a time when Hillary Clinton was still assumed to become the next elected president, Jonathan H. Adler wrote an article entitled “Is the Emoluments Clause a problem for Hillary Clinton?” In the article, Adler noted,
“The meaning and current application of the Emoluments Clause might not seem like much of an issue to you, but it is to two of my colleagues, Jonathan Entin and Erik Jensen. The two have dueling op-eds on the clause in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.”
“you can’t take politics out of politics—but payments from foreign governments to federal officials are different from the usual sorts of contributions. Those who are supposed to be looking out for the best interests of the United States shouldn’t be taking goodies from other governments, a potentially corrupting influence that creates the appearance of divided loyalties.”
America’s founders understood this, incorporating the Emoluments Clause into the Constitution, adapting language from a similar provision in the Articles of Confederation.
A present—or, even worse, compensation for services (an emolument)—transferred by a foreign government to a federal official isn’t everyday pay for play. It’s forbidden, unless Congress approves.
What about gifts from foreign governments made to a foundation in which a person holding an office of trust—a secretary of state, say—has a controlling position, either directly or through family members? That sort of thing happened not so long ago, with regard to the Clinton Foundation.
Whether or not the practice could have survived review by lawyers in green eyeshades, we won’t know. But the practice smelled. It violated the spirit, if not the language, of the Foreign Emoluments Clause and related statutes. It was, at a minimum, an ethical lapse.
“If you haven’t heard that Hillary Clinton is constitutionally ineligible to be president, be ready.
“That claim has nothing to do with her birth certificate but rather with contributions to the Clinton Foundation by foreign governments.
“According to conservative bloggers, those contributions violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution (Article I, Section 9), which generally forbids American officials from accepting “any present, Emolument, Office, or Title” from another nation. Because the foundation accepted payments from foreign governments while she held government positions, Clinton supposedly violated the Emoluments Clause and is disqualified from serving as our chief executive.
“It requires Congress to approve any payment or gift from a foreign entity a president decides to keep.”
But while Hillary Clinton was never forced to face any backlash in this regard, Trump is currently facing three lawsuits over the Emoluments Clause from left-wing groups like Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics (CREW).
Additionally, more than 200 members of Congress are suing the President over the constitutional ban as they interpret it.
What has them excited are the conferences to promote U.S.-Turkey relations, the celebration of Kuwaiti National Day and numerous private gatherings have been held recently in the ballroom and other facilities of Trump’s hotel in downtown Washington, D.C. in the newly renovated, historic Old Post Office building, a project Trump undertook long before he chose to run for president.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer earlier in the week dismissed those and similar concerns as partisan bickering, and, in a brief statement late Friday, he did not address them anew, stating
“President Trump welcomed the opportunity to voluntarily file his personal financial disclosure form; while this filing is voluntary (as no report was due until May 2018), it has been certified by the Office of Government Ethics pursuant to its normal procedures.”
In other areas, Trump’s popular book “The Art of the Deal,” brought in as much as $1 million in royalties, up significantly from royalties reported in his 2016 filing ($100k). Sales of Trump’s book “Crippled America” brought in up to another $5 million.
Trump reported assets of at least $1.4 billion and income of at least $596.3 million in the 2016 calendar year and the early months of 2017. He reported owing at least $310 million to various financial institutions, including at least $130 million to Germany’s Deutsche Bank. The disclosure reports liabilities of at least $315 million.
President Trump, prior to taking office and as reported, sold off all his stocks positions with the exception of some private funds over which he has no control. This is typical practice for elected officials. Trump also continues to maintain a small investment in a private, New Jersey-based apparel company, Eco-Tek 360, Inc.
In 2017 Trump received $84,292 in pension payments from the Screen Actors Guild. Based on Hollywood’s treatment of the President, it might be fun for him to take that money and donate it to Conservative causes.
The report further details that before taking office in January of 2017, Donald Trump severed a significant number of business times. Significantly, the report does not contain evidence that Trump has any ties whatsoever to Russia.