This Week in Conflicts: “Trump Inc.” and Profiting from the presidency


This week, we tune into ProPublica and WNYC’s new podcast, take note of a conflict at the NLRB, highlight federal funds going to the Trump International Hotel in DC, and look at how Kushner’s properties in NYC are doing.

Looking ahead, on March 3, the GOP and the President will host a fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago, a private Trump club. As with past events, that means President Donald J. Trump will make an emolumental profit from hosting another campaign fundraiser at one of his businesses. As the Washington Post reports, political cash has become a growing revenue stream at the president’s properties.

Tuning into “Trump Inc.”

“Trump, Inc.” is a new podcast from ProPublica and WNYC Studios. It will explore “the Mysteries of the President’s Businesses: Who Profits and at What Cost?” (Image Credit: Lincoln Agnew)

This week, ProPublica and WNYC Studios launched a weekly podcast called “Trump, Inc.” that will take a deep dive into President Trump’s businesses, their profits, projects and partners.

In the first episode, the podcast gives a 10,000-foot view of the complex business structures that exist and the difficulty in separating President Trump from CEO Trump.

ProPublica and WNYC plan on releasing new episodes each week. They are hoping you will help them untangle and make sense of the Trump businesses and their potential impact on the presidency. For more on how you can get involved, tune into the podcast.

Conflicts at the Labor Relations Board

William Emanuel testifies on his nomination to the National Labor Relations Board. (Image Credit: ProPublica)

A National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) board member is being investigated by the agency’s inspector general for possibly violating government ethics rules, according to ProPublica.  The investigation was opened several weeks ago to determine if William Emanuel, participated in a case involving his former law firm and – if he did – whether his participation was improper.

The NLRB is an independent federal agency that works to protect employees’ rights to organize, among other things. As a board member, Emanuel is subject to federal conflict of interest statutes, which include a two-year ban on participating in cases where former employers or clients are involved.

ProPublica has been covering Emanuel and the growing questions he is facing from union lawyers, former NLRB members and members of Congress about potential conflicts tied to his former law firm Littler Mendelson. The news organization recently reported that Emanuel has “effectively sidestepped conflict of interest rules in some instances.”

GSA staff patronize Trump DC hotel

The Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C. (Image credit: Flickr user JamesMcNellis)

A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit by  Property of The People, a DC-based nonprofit transparency organization, revealed that the Trump Organization is receiving government funds through the Trump International Hotel. The receipts detailing expenditures at the Trump property of more than $900 by a federal employee were first reported by CNN.

According to CNN, the employee was reimbursed for “a majority of the charges, which was in line with the agency’s policy on per diem expenses, according to a person familiar with the document. That means taxpayer dollars made their way into the hotel’s coffers.”

The hotel occupies the Old Post Office building in D.C. and opened in September 2016. President Donald Trump obtained a 60-year-lease from the General Services Administration for the property in 2013.

“Regardless of how much he makes on any individual transaction, the President is sending a signal that the White House is open for business,” said Property of the People co-founder Ryan Shapiro, in a statement.

“Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American presidency into a racket.” Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American presidency into a racket.”

Kushner’s conflicts draw scrutiny

The old New York Times building on Times Square, Manhattan, NYC. (Image Credit: Simon Leigh for the Guardian)

Is President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, making a net profit from his properties with Trump in office and he serves in the White House?

According to The Guardian, the answer is no. 

“The Trump presidency has so far proved more bane than boon to Kushner Companies,” Edward Hellmore reports.

“Despite stepping down as chief executive of the family real estate business and resigning from an additional 266 corporate positions in order to serve his father-in-law’s administration, Kushner has found his business dealings have cast a long shadow over his White House advisory position, a role that does not enjoy the same conflict-of-interest protections afforded the president.”

The financing of multiple Kushner buildings in New York City have drawn sustained scrutiny, from 666 Fifth Avenue to One Journal Square, and the former New York Times building on West 44th Street in Manhattan is facing a rash of defaults by tenants:

“One restaurant, Guy’s American, owned by spike-haired celebrity chef Guy Fieri, has closed down and construction of a planned Todd English’s food hall has stalled, its windows plastered over with brown paper. According to a Bloomberg report,  investors were told the building would generate $24m in rent annually. But tenant problems suggest a potential shortfall of at least $9m.”

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” presents a comprehensive, free, searchable database detailing all of President Donald J.Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as president of the United States. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, learn more about conflicts of interest at every level of government and search our database. If you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking you can email us or contact us here to contribute to the project.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project. Connect with her via email here.