How Trump fused his business empire to the presidency

The White House and the Trump Organization didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Even after Congress launched an investigation into his businesses, the Trump administration authorized foreign governments to rent condos in Trump World Tower in New York, according to previously unreported documents obtained through a public records lawsuit by American Oversight, a watchdog group engaging with Congress on oversight of the administration.

Trump, already facing an impeachment trial while campaigning for a second term in office, is saddled with an unprecedented onslaught of investigations and lawsuits, many alleging he is violating the law by accepting money from U.S. taxpayers and foreign governments, both of which are forbidden by the emoluments clause of the Constitution.

The House launched an investigation last year, demanding the administration and Trump’s company release details about Vice President Mike Pence’s 2019 stay at a Trump resort in Ireland that came at the president’s suggestion. While they refused, new records obtained by POLITICO show the Irish police spent at least $4,000 at Trump Doonbeg while covering Pence’s visit — on top of $145,000 for other visits.

Lawmakers eventually cut the allegations out of their articles of impeachment, choosing to narrowly focus on Trump pushing Ukraine to open an inquiry into Democratic political rival Joe Biden. But lawmakers say they will continue to investigate to try to stop Trump from profiting from the presidency, force him to repay taxpayer money and prevent further conflicts.

“President Trump is openly enriching himself by encouraging government entities to spend money at his businesses, and foreign entities appear to frequent his business to curry favor with this administration,” said House Oversight and Reform Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y). “President Trump must be held accountable for his blatant disregard for the Constitution.”

Trump ignored calls to fully separate from his eponymous company, which comprises more than 500 businesses and includes properties in nearly two dozen countries, after he was sworn in to office.

Sheri Dillon, a lawyer for the Trump Organization, said in January 2017 that Trump “wants there to be no doubt in the minds of the American public that he is completely isolating himself from his business interests.”

That never happened. Trump still owns his business, though he asked his adult sons to run it. His holdings were placed in a trust designed to hold assets for his benefit from which he can draw money at any time without the public’s knowledge.

Trump has responded to repeated criticism by denying he is using the presidency to boost spending at his resorts, insisting people frequent them because “they’re the best” and calling the emoluments clause “phony.”

“It’s not a big deal — you people are making it a big deal,” he told reporters in December 2016. Trump joined others in his administration who argued that voters don’t care. “They all knew I had big business all over the place.”

In 2015, Trump famously rode down the escalator of Trump Tower in New York and launched his candidacy. It was a sign of what was to come.

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