A new report from House Democrats reveals that former President Donald Trump’s businesses took in at least $7.8 million from foreign governments during his time in office. The payments raise further concerns over potential violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
Over $5.5 Million Came from Chinese State-Owned Companies
The report from the House Oversight Committee shows that Chinese state-owned companies and political groups spent the most money at Trump properties out of any foreign entity. Over $5.5 million was spent on hotel rooms, meals, and events at Trump hotels and golf clubs.
The largest spender was the state-owned Industrial & Commercial Bank of China. They rented space at Trump Tower in New York while fighting sanctions imposed by Trump’s administration. Other payments came from government entities in Malaysia, India, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, and Turkey.
|Industrial & Commercial Bank of China
|Malaysian Prime Minister Office
|India Prime Minister Event
|Saudi Arabia Lobbyists
Democrats claim Trump violated the emoluments clause which prohibits a president from receiving gifts or payments from foreign states without Congressional approval. However, it may be difficult to prove the payments directly benefited Trump beyond his businesses.
House Democrats First Raised Concerns in 2017
House Democrats sent letters to Trump’s company in 2017 asking them to identify any profits or payments from foreign governments, warning it could be an emoluments violation. However, the Trump Organization did not provide any substantive responses.
Democrats renewed their investigation after winning back the House in 2018. They eventually subpoenaed financial records from Trump’s businesses after continued stonewalling. Information in the new report comes from documents obtained in the lawsuit over that subpoena.
Trump Expected Over $20 Million Yearly from Foreign Sources
When Trump took office, he refused calls to fully separate from his business empire. His son Eric claimed they expected to profit heavily from foreign visitors:
“I think our brand is the hottest it has ever been,” Eric Trump told a hotel trade publication in 2017. He specifically highlighted his belief that foreign travelers would flock to Trump hotels: “I have no doubt, as we get further away from the election, that we will continue to see the business rise.”
Financial disclosures later showed Trump properties made over $20 million per year from foreign sources during his presidency. However, Democrats claim Trump illegally hid the true amounts and sources.
Justice Department and GOP Largely Silent So Far
The Justice Department has not indicated yet if they will open an investigation based on the House report. Legal experts say proving a criminal violation could be difficult due to vague wording in the emoluments clause.
New Republican House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer also said he currently has no plans to continue the investigation into Trump’s foreign profits:
“There are major issues facing our country right now under President Biden — a border crisis, fentanyl deaths, crime, and record inflation just to name a few,” Comer wrote in a statement. “It’s unfortunate that Democrats are wasting time playing politics while American families suffer.”
Democrats Consider Additional Hearings or Legal Action
Democrats may hold public hearings highlighting the report’s findings to put further pressure on Republicans and the Justice Department. Some progressive legislators have also proposed filing a civil lawsuit to compel Trump to repay foreign profits to the US Treasury.
It’s unlikely the narrowly divided Congress would take more drastic steps like impeaching Trump again or passing legislation regarding presidential ethics rules. For now, the new revelations seem prone to fade into the backdrop of endless investigations and controversies surrounding the former president. Still, the lingering emoluments questions will follow Trump should he choose to run for president again in 2024.
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