Documents released by House Democrats reveal that Donald Trump’s businesses took in millions of dollars from foreign governments while he was president, raising further concerns about conflicts of interest and violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause.
Over $7 Million in Foreign Payments to Trump Companies
The House Oversight Committee report estimates that Trump properties received at least $7.8 million in payments and other benefits from foreign governments during his presidency. The majority of the money came from the Chinese and Saudi Arabian governments spending lavishly at Trump hotels and golf resorts.
|Amount Paid to Trump
Trump failed to divest from his sprawling business interests when he took office, raising alarms about foreign payments influencing his policy decisions. While presidential candidates typically release tax returns and place assets in blind trusts, Trump did neither.
Emoluments Clause Violations
The foreign payments likely violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits a president from profiting from foreign governments without consent from Congress. Legal experts argue that even if Trump was unaware of the transactions, the text bans any foreign emoluments regardless of the president’s knowledge.
Trump faces lawsuits arguing these transactions violated the emoluments clause, one of which was dismissed in 2021. However, the recent revelations bolster arguments that Trump unconstitutionally profited from foreign governments. While in office, Trump dismissed this concern, claiming “I don’t need anybody’s money. It’s nice, but I don’t need anybody’s money.”
Prioritizing Personal Profit Over National Security
Critics argue Trump placed personal financial gain over national security by not divesting from his business holdings. House Democrats warn the foreign payments created alarming conflicts of interest and space for corruption.
“The report paints a picture of a President who may have used his position to line his pockets at the expense of Americans’ safety and security through profoundly concerning relationships with criminal enterprises, dictatorships, and authoritarian governments,” said Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), chair of the House Oversight Committee.
Most Money from China While Crafting China Policy
The $5.5 million Trump properties received from the Chinese government and entities controlled by the state raise perhaps the most alarming questions. Trump implemented substantial China policy during his term, including launching a trade war in 2018 and negotiating a limited trade agreement in 2020.
Meanwhile, Chinese state-owned enterprises and government bodies spent over $5 million hosting events at Trump properties and on office space in Trump Tower. This includes $2 million paid by China’s Ministry of Culture in 2017 to rent space at Trump Tower and $1.1 million paid by the China Merchants Group in 2018-2019.
What’s Next: Legal Issues and 2024 Implications
The foreign payments revelations will likely amplify legal issues Trump already faces over election interference and retaining classified material after leaving office. The emoluments lawsuits could also regain momentum given stronger evidence Trump violated the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause.
Politically, the foreign payments dent Trump’s 2024 campaign before it officially begins. Critics argue the transactions demonstrate Trump would again prioritize personal profit over national interests if re-elected. Meanwhile, Trump supporters maintain the former president did nothing illegal and followed the advice of ethics officials.
Either way, the story fuels existing perceptions of Trump on both sides and raises further doubts about the propriety of a Trump second term. With Trump’s candidacy looming, these lingering legal issues regarding his past leadership will likely remain front and center.
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