- Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
- The Trump Organization said Monday it donated profits from foreign government officials patronizing its hotels to the Treasury Department.
- It did not say how much money was donated, however.
- Trump pledged to make the donations prior to taking office.
The Trump Organization said Monday that the company, as President Donald Trump previously pledged, donated profits from foreign government officials patronizing its hotels to the Treasury Department, The Associated Press reported.
But the president’s namesake business made a glaring omission from its declaration: It did not say how much money was donated.
George Sorial, the executive vice president and chief compliance counsel for the Trump Organization, said in a statement that the company made the donation Thursday. That donation, he said, included profits from January 20 through December 31, 2017. Sorial did not provide a sum or breakdown of the donation.
Prior to Trump taking office, he announced through attorney Sheri Dillon that he would “voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury.”
It was not clear, however, whether “his hotel” meant all of his properties or just a specific one, such as his Washington, DC, location.
Receiving such profits from foreign government officials has alarmed ethics experts. They have warned that such payments could violate the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which prohibits a president from accepting gifts or cash from foreign governments.
Democratic Rep. John Sarbanes of Maryland, who chairs the Democracy Reform Task Force, told Business Insider that the Trump Organization essentially gave a “head fake” about the donations.
“They want the first part of your statement to be the lead and give people some idea that they’re doing good things,” he said. “But then when you just pick a little bit below the surface and try to chase down whether it’s real or not real, it’s like catching smoke.”
He added, though, that it’s a positive sign Trump’s company made the announcement.
“The good news is by putting this information forward, they are acknowledging that it’s something the public is anxious about,” he said. “They perceive that this is a vulnerability for them. That reinforces that fact that this is a legitimate issue to keep pressing on.”
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the ethics watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called the announcement “wholly inadequate.”
“There is no transparency as to how much money they donated, how they arrived at that number, how profits were calculated, or where the profits came from,” he said in a statement.
Bookbinder added that Trump’s plan to donate profits from foreign governments to the Treasury Department, “even if fully implemented, is woefully insufficient,” because it only covers a very narrow sliver of what such officials could spend money on and includes just “a nebulous ‘profit’ figure – not all payments – calculated at their discretion.”
“There is no independent oversight or accountability; we’re being asked to take their word for it,” he continued. “Most importantly, even if they had given every dime they made from foreign governments to the Treasury, the taking of those payments would still be a problem under the Constitution.”
On Twitter, users were quick to respond to the lack of disclosure.
hey is there any, I dunno, "committee" somewhere within the government that's tasked with… let's call it "oversight," or "government reform," and has extremely broad jurisdiction to investigate basically whatever it wants??????? https://t.co/SfVM1kkMGM
— Simon Maloy (@SimonMaloy) February 26, 2018
Yeah, this will not work. https://t.co/4FeuPGYgbR
— Chris Geidner (@chrisgeidner) February 26, 2018
Imma need those receipts. https://t.co/oArhjLczsR
— Jennifer Hayden (@Scout_Finch) February 26, 2018
We want to see the receipts https://t.co/8irm4fC1ON
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) February 26, 2018
— David A. Graham (@GrahamDavidA) February 26, 2018
“just trust us, ok?" https://t.co/TXmCIV6BRY
— Tom Namako (@TomNamako) February 26, 2018
Can't wait to see the claimed FOIA exemptions on this one. https://t.co/igfcUilFug
— Tony Webster (@webster) February 26, 2018