Trump's money-making power as unprecedented as his words
So is what goes into his wallet.
In their recent financial disclosure forms, Donald Trump, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner reported more than $500 million in income.
That income came from their hotels, golf courses, clubs and merchandise sales. It came from long-established businesses and newly formed ones.
No modern president has profited this way during his time in office.
Predecessors like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush put their assets in blind trusts to avoid conflicts between their financial interests and the public interest. Trump did not.
He announced in January 2017 that he would step away from his businesses by putting his sons Donald Jr. and Eric in charge of them. But he stepped away only from their management, not their profits.
As president, Trump has promoted those businesses with his presence relentlessly. During his first 514 days in office, he visited Trump properties on 159 of them.
At least two American embassies abroad have promoted Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private club, on their websites. A national park in Virginia has offered Trump wine for sale.
Trump aide Kellyanne Conway publicly urged Americans to buy Ivanka Trump’s products in a television appearance on Fox News. Explaining the popularity of Trump’s Washington hotel, Conway told Politico that customers “look at it as a piece of the president.”
As demand rose, the Trump organization raised prices.
Mar-a-Lago, which Trump calls the “Winter White House,” doubled its membership fee to $200,000. Trump International Hotel, whose managers market it as a destination for diplomats, raised room rates almost 60 percent.
Many benefit from Trump's decisions
In amounts large and small, Trump takes in money from political allies, and from the government he leads.
The Republican National Committee rents space in Trump Tower. So does the Pentagon. So does China’s largest bank.
The government of Qatar this spring paid $6.5 million for an apartment in Trump World Tower — joining the governments of Saudi Arabia, India and Afghanistan there.
Trump businesses overseas have gotten foreign government help, too.
China’s government is reportedly lending $500 million for a Trump-linked development project in Indonesia. China has also approved dozens of trademarks for Trump family businesses since he won the presidency.
The White House notes that Congress has exempted presidents from conflict-of-interest statutes. But his ability to profit is not unlimited.
In two “emoluments clauses,” the Constitution forbids the president from taking money from individual states or from foreign governments.
Responding to those restrictions, the Trump organization has pledged to donate profits derived from foreign entities to the U.S. Treasury. In 2017, that donation was $151,000 — less than one-half of 1 percent of the $40 million in hotel income the president reported.
A federal lawsuit filed by Democratic members of Congress and one filed by the governments of Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia accuse the president of violating the emoluments clauses.
While those cases await trial, the power of the presidency remains a major financial asset for Trump.
“The stars have all aligned,” Eric Trump said last year. “I think our brand is hotter than it’s ever been.”