“It is a gross abuse of public trust, and with each conflict, he becomes more complicit in the destruction of the ethical norms that form the cornerstone of a working democracy.”
By Lisa Newcomb, staff writer for Common Dreams. Published 9-24-2020
In its continuing research into President Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest, a government watchdog group released a new report Thursday that shows the commander-in-chief has engaged in 3,403 conflicts of interest since taking office—an average of more than two conflicts per day since being sworn in in January of 2017.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) released the findings Thursday and wrote that Trump “continues to be the most corrupt president in history.”
2/ Since day one of the Trump administration, @CREWcrew has been tracking the constant stream of conflicts of interest stemming from President Trump’s decision not to divest his businesses.
We’re at 3,403…and counting. https://t.co/toIW0EJOyK pic.twitter.com/2hxd4eJTXs
— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) September 24, 2020
“As the president continues to harness the office of the presidency for his own personal gain, Americans can no longer trust that he makes decisions in our interest, rather than his own,” Noah Bookbinder, executive director of CREW, said in a statement Thursday. “From foreign governments and industries throwing lavish events at his properties to donors and customers buying their way to ambassadorships and top political offices, corruption surrounds this president literally every day.”
Highlighting then-candidate Trump’s 2016 claim that he would not have time for golf were he elected president, the CREW report begins:
As a candidate for president, Donald Trump used to promise cheering crowds at stop after stop on the campaign trail that if he won the election he would be too busy to play golf or visit his properties. ‘I love golf,” Trump told supporters in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in February 2016, “But if I were in the White House, I don’t think I’d ever see Turnberry again. I don’t think I’d ever see Doral again—I own Doral in Miami. I don’t think I’d ever see any of the places that I have… I just want to stay in the White House and work my ass off, make great deals.”
To the contrary, President Trump has found time to visit his properties hundreds of times while in office, with time left over to lavish them with praise in official remarks, and to reward his paying customers with privileged access to and positions in his administration. For nearly four years now, President Trump has made it abundantly clear that any claim of separation from his business was a lie, and coupled with his unprecedented decision not to divest his business empire before entering office, this empty promise has led to some of the most egregious examples of presidential corruption and conflicts of interest ever raised by a modern president.
The report‘s highlights include:
- President Trump has made more than 500 visits to the properties he owns and profits from. The president’s frequent travel to and from his properties has cost American taxpayers well over $100 million.
- President Trump has made more than 300 visits to the golf courses he owns and profits from, despite saying repeatedly during his presidential campaign in 2016 he would not have time for golf. His insistence on spending time at his properties has resulted in at least $ million in taxpayer money being spent at his properties.
- 141 members of Congress have patronized Trump properties. These visits often coincide with events held by special interests or wealthy political donors that rake in millions of dollars for his properties.
- Special interest groups, many of which have business before the Trump administration, have hosted or sponsored 130 events at Trump properties since he took office. Political groups have held another 88 events at Trump properties.
- Foreign government-tied entities have held 13 events at Trump properties, and at least 145 foreign officials have visited one of Trump’s properties. Foreign governments have granted President Trump’s businesses 67 trademarks, and have awarded additional trademarks to his daughter’s business, all potentially in an effort to secure favorable treatment from the Trump administration.
CREW’s findings come as new reporting in Vanity Fair raises questions about the Qatari government using a “dummy” office in San Francisco—in a building partially owned by Trump—to pay the president, in what reporter Dan Alexander wrote is “an ethical nightmare.”
Four foreign government entities—from China, Qatar, India, and the United Arab Emirates—have rented space in Trump’s buildings while he’s served as president. At least 35 tenants lobbied the federal government on policy issues. Twenty of those pitched the White House or the president personally. Thirty or more tenants collected over $8 billion in federal government contracts from 2018 to 2019 alone. At least 17 faced federal investigations on matters including fraud, money laundering, and corruption. Add it all up and Trump’s tenant relationships create one of the most significant potential conflicts of interest in American history.
“President Trump has repeatedly used his office to promote his businesses and grant wealthy paying customers personal access to him, his staff, and those who have his ear,” Bookbinder said. “It is a gross abuse of public trust, and with each conflict, he becomes more complicit in the destruction of the ethical norms that form the cornerstone of a working democracy.”