This week, more pressure is put on President Donald Trump to disclose his business dealings with Saudi Arabia, Democrats allege the president intervened in the plans for building a new FBI building to protect his Washington D.C. hotel and Ivanka Trump is accused of providing false sales figures for Trump building projects.
Trump’s Ties with Saudi Arabia
“For President Trump, Saudi Arabia is not just a political ally. It has also been a customer,” the Washington Post reports.
In a recent article, the news organization attempts to untangle exactly what President Trump’s business relationships between Saudi Arabia and wealthy Saudi business executives look like. The Washington Post is just one news organization trying to make sense of the relationships as the United States decides if and how to respond to the death of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
According to the Washington Post article, President Trump’s business relationships with the Saudi government date back to at least the 1990s.
“In Trump’s hard times, a Saudi prince bought a superyacht and hotel from him,” the Post reports. “The Saudi government paid him $4.5 million for an apartment near the United Nations…Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 last year to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. Just this year, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported significant upticks in bookings from Saudi visitors.”
Business Insider breaks down those purchases and relationships in this article. Last week some Senate Democrats sent letters to President Trump and the Trump Organization requesting information about the President’s business dealings with Saudi Arabia over the past 10 years.
“It is imperative that” sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act, “and U.S. policy toward Saudi Arabi generally, are not influenced by any conflicts of interest that may exist because of your or your family’s deep financial ties to Saudi Arabia,” the Democrats said.
Trump and the FBI HQ Project
A group of House Democrats is alleging that President Trump got involved in the plans for a new FBI building to protect his hotel in Washington D.C.
As NPR reports, the allegations come from minority-party leaders of the House oversight committee. The group, led by Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings, sent a letter to the General Service Administration requesting more information about how the decision of where the new FBI building will be located was made.
President “Trump wants to demolish and rebuild the FBI’s headquarters, the Democrats say, to preserve the site’s government ownership and deny any potential competitors to the Trump International Hotel at the Old Post Office Pavilion up the street,” NPR reports. “Before Trump was elected, he expressed interest in an earlier project that would have involved moving the FBI to a new site in suburban Maryland and selling its Pennsylvania Avenue location to a private developer. That prospective move-and-sale deal was scrapped last year.”
A spokesperson for the GSA said the FBI made the decision not the president.
Misleading Buyers and False Sales Figures
In a recent podcast from Trump, Inc. WNYC Studios and ProPublica look at how the Trump business model moved from being focused on licensing the Trump name to profiting off being more hands-on and involved in their projects.
According to the investigation, “patterns of deceptive practices occurred in a dozen deals across the globe, as the business expanded into international projects, and the Trumps often participated. One common pattern, visible in more than half of those transactions, was a tendency to misstate key sales numbers.”
The news investigation highlights interviews and press conferences where Ivanka Trump gave “false sales figures” for projects in Panama, Toronto, New York and Mexico. According to the investigation, “these statements weren’t just the legendary Trump hype; they misled potential buyers about the viability of the developments.”
In other examples, the news organizations reveal President Trump would tell buyers and news organizations his ownership stake in the projects was higher than it actually was. “For a tower planned in Tampa, for example, Trump told a local paper in 2005 that his ownership would be less than 50 percent…In reality, Trump had no ownership stake in the project,” the news organizations reported.
Quid Pro Quo for Trump Endorsement?
In a recent article from Fast Company, the reporter takes a look at endorsements from President Trump coinciding with candidates spending money at his hotels.
The first example involves an event that took place last month. According to the article, “Trump signaled his support for Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s candidacy for Speaker of the House at a fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in D.C., where McCarthy’s PAC spent $154,000 to host the reception and dinner for 300 guests.”
Noah Bookbinder, the executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) questioned if President Trump’s endorsements were adding money to his wallet.
He told Fast Company, “It raises the specter that the president is essentially enriching himself by virtue of his position. Because if you have other politicians who think they’re more likely to get the president’s support if they spend money at his hotels or his golf courses or his other businesses, they’re more likely to do that and the president makes more money.”
CREW is currently involved in two federal lawsuits against President Trump over violations of the emoluments clause. Fast Company did not receive a response from the Trump Organization or a White House spokesperson when asked about the endorsements.
More conflicts of interest in the news
- Khashoggi Disappearance Tests Ties Between Jared Kushner And Saudi Crown Prince
- Trump’s Patron-in-Chief: Sheldon Adelson
- Trump’s Tangled Relationship With Saudi Arabia
- Kanye West brought Yeezys as gifts to the White House. Can Trump or his staffers keep them?
- CREW Files Hatch Act Complaint Against Sarah Huckabee Sanders
- Pro-Trump legal fund making payments, but won’t say who’s benefiting
- Mar-a-Lago member gives $150K to legal defense fund for Trump allies
- White House moves to replace Interior Department IG amid probe of Secretary Ryan Zinke
- Whose interests is Trump looking out for in Saudi Arabia? (Opinion)
About this Project
Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.
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.