Earlier this month, House Oversight Committee leaders Rep. Elijah Cummings and Rep. Jason Chaffetz issued demands for documentation of how the Trump Organization was tracking influxes of foreign cash. The Constitution prohibits the President from receiving cash payouts from foreign governments without the consent of Congress, and President Trump has maintained financial connection to his vast global real estate empire.
The Trump Organization has now responded to the House Oversight Committee’s demands, MSNBC has learned, and what’s come out isn’t pretty.
Sure, Trump and his personal lawyer, Sheri Dillon, claimed earlier this year that the Trump Organization would be brought into compliance with the law when it comes to foreign cash. That’s not happening, however, and it’s honestly not surprising that it’s not happening considering the circumstances.
According to a Trump Organization “company pamphlet” apparently obtained by MSNBC after being provided to Rep. Cummings, the Trump Organization “does not attempt to identify individual travelers who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government entity.”
All of this would presumably be much less of an issue if Trump had financially disconnected himself from his real estate empire as he has long been admonished to do.
In place of actually coming up with a system to determine what profits garnered from Trump hotels came from representatives of foreign governments, the Trump Organization is apparently just estimating what proportion of profits they think came from foreign governments and donating that to the United States Treasury.
Although it’s kind of pointless in terms of actually keeping Trump out of corruption, the Trump team announced earlier this year that they planned to donate any Trump Organization profits gathered from foreign governments to the Treasury.
The Trump Organization bases its estimates, presumably, on how many people have self identified as representatives of foreign governments when checking into a Trump hotel or utilizing a Trump service. They have, apparently, not implemented any new system to compensate for the fact that it’s illegal for the President to draw income from foreign sources.
Ironically — and yet also unsurprisingly — a number of financial experts noted to MSNBC that it’s not at all clear if there will ever even be any sort of significant donation to the Treasury, depending on how the Trump Organization calculates costs.
Ralph Miller, co-author of the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry, commented, “[While] net income is defined by generally accepted accounting principles, the term profit is not. It’s revenue minus costs, but which costs and at what level and over what period of time?”
With a president like Trump being something that the United States has quite simply never experienced before, no court has ever, according to MSNBC, ruled on whether or not profits of the sort garnered from Trump hotels must be rejected by the President under the Constitution.
Rep. Cummings, for his part, “is pressing the Trump Organization to brief Congress on the matter by June 2.”
Additionally, there is an open court case in New York whose plantiffs are seeking to get a judge to rule against President Trump on account of his continued taking of profits from his businesses while in the White House.
The maze of foreign profits creates a whole host of possibilities for foreign interests to use their patronization of Trump businesses to try and gain leverage with the President.
Featured Image via Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call