This Week in Conflicts: Ivanka profits, ethics waivers for lobbyists, and an emolumental lawsuit


Trump in Reno, NV

Trump in Reno, NV. (Photo Credit: (Photo credit: Darron Birgenheier/Flickr)

This week, we learned Ivanka Trump that is indeed still earning money from the family business while she serves in the White House, lobbyists are continuing to receive ethics waivers while they work in the federal agencies they once lobbied, and an emoluments lawsuit against President Donald J. Trump will move forward.

Ivanka Profits

Senior White House Adviser Jared Kushner, and his wife, Assistant to the President Ivanka Trump, U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus are seen as they arrive with President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump to the Murabba Palace as honored guests of King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, Saturday evening, May 20, 2017, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Ivanka Trump, a senior White House adviser and President Trump’s oldest daughter, will take in more than $1 million a year from the Trump family business, the McClatchy D.C. bureau reported.

After her father was sworn in as President, Trump resigned from numerous vice president positions with the Trump Organization but – like her father – did not divest from hundreds of conflicts of interest.

According to her financial disclosure report filed last year, she is expected to receive $1.5 million a year from companies affiliated with the Trump Organization,

According to McClatchy’s reporting, the sources of these payments include companies associated with several projects that have come under scrutiny for possible ethics or legal violations, including:

  • A major construction company owned by the Chinese government was awarded a contract to build a road as part of a Trump development in Dubai.
  • Plans to build a road to shorten the drive between the main airport on the Indonesian island of Bali and the new high-end Trump resort and golf course.
  • A construction company owned in part by the governments of Saudi Arabia and South Korea expects to build the Trump Lido City development in Indonesia.
  • The Trump International Hotel Washington D.C. has been cited in lawsuits accusing the president of violating the Constitution by accepting money from customers who are foreign officials.

Trump was expected to receive more money from additional Trump businesses, according to her most recent financial disclosure report, but the other amounts were not detailed.

A spokesman for an attorney hired by Trump told McClatchy “she would recuse herself from any decisions at the White House that could pose a conflict.”

Ethics Waivers for Lobbyists

Donald Trump speaking at a campaign rally in June 2016. (Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

After his inauguration, President Trump signed an executive order prohibiting former lobbyists and lawyers from being involved in anything they worked on for private clients within two years of taking a job with the government.

Documents reviewed by the Associated Press show more than 30 ethics waivers have been issued to White House administration officials and executive branch employees by Don McGahn, White House Counsel and assistant to President Trump.

According to the AP, one of the waivers allows FBI Director Chris Wray “to participate in matters involving a confidential former client.”

“Wray represented clients that included big banks and other corporations as a partner at a law firm that paid him $9.2 million a year, according to his financial disclosure statement,” the AP reported.

The waiver does not detail what Wray’s conflict of interest might be.

According to the AP, “nearly 70 waivers were issued to executive branch officials during [President Barack] Obama’s eight years, though those were generally more narrowly focused and offered a fuller legal explanation for why the waiver was granted.”

The Trumps, Kushners & New Business?

Screenshot of the New York Times website. (Image Credit: New York Times)

According to the New York Times, the Kushners and the Trump Organization are in discussions to possibly work together on a development along the New Jersey shore.

The Kushner Companies recently began construction on an oceanfront development in Long Branch, New Jersey, according to the article. As the development of “Pier Village continues, the New York Times reports that the Kushners are talking to the Trump Organization about managing “at least one hotel at the center of the development”:

The Kushner Companies and the Trump Organization have signed a letter of intent, though no deal is final and the Kushners are not required to inform city officials. The long-running talks blur the line between family, business and politics in ways that lack precedent: Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Kushner, the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law, retain financial interests in their family businesses. The Trump Organization’s outside ethics adviser has raised questions about a potential deal — one reason the two-year-long discussions have not been completed.

Emoluments Lawsuit Moves Forward

Screenshot of Karl A. Racine’s Tweet (Image Credit: Twitter)

In a tweet on March 13, Karl A. Racine, the Attorney General for the District of Columbia, said that his emoluments lawsuit against President Trump will move forward.

Racine and Maryland Attorney General Brian E. Frosh sued President Trump in June alleging Trump violated Constitutional anti-corruption clauses by accepting money and benefits from foreign governments since taking office. The basis for these claims is focused on the fact that President Trump retained ownership of his company after becoming president, which means he is receiving additional money in office beyond his annual salary in violation of the foreign and domestic emoluments clauses of the Constitution.

The Department of Justice, which is representing the United States in this matter, asked for the lawsuit to be thrown out, calling the lawsuit politically motivated and a “fishing expedition” by the attorneys general.

According to the Washington Post, “No court has considered the merits of an emoluments case previously, and attorneys for the plaintiffs say they believe the U.S. Supreme Court may ultimately weigh in regardless of the outcome at the district court level.”

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.