WASHINGTON ― President Donald Trump does not plan to track or forward all the Trump Organization’s profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, as he promised to do in January when he announced he would maintain ownership of his multibillion-dollar business enterprise.
Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, disclosed a glossy eight-page Trump Organization pamphlet on Wednesday detailing the company’s plans to pool profits from foreign governments and return them to the Treasury. George Sorial, the chief compliance officer of the Trump Organization, sent the pamphlet to the committee in response to its inquiry.
The Trump Organization pamphlet reveals that the company will not attempt to fully identify and return payments or profits from foreign governments or foreign government-owned entities ― in apparent violation of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause. This clause forbids the president or other executive branch officials from receiving any payment, title or benefit from foreign governments.
“This pamphlet raises grave concerns about the President’s refusal to comply with the Constitution merely because he believes it is ‘impractical’ and could ‘diminish the guest experience of our brand,’” Cummings wrote to Sorial.
The Trump Organization sent the pamphlet to Trump properties on April 11. As Cummings notes, the pamphlet states that identifying all foreign government payments would be “impractical in the service industry” and would “diminish the guest experience of our brand.”
The pamphlet continues, “It is not the intention nor design of this policy for our properties to attempt to identify individual travelers who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government entity on foreign government business.”
Instead, the pamphlet instructs Trump properties to only return profits on identifiable direct payments from foreign governments, foreign embassies, foreign political parties, royal family members and sovereign wealth funds ― who would have to proactively identify themselves as such, without requiring the Trump property to seek out this information another way.
The Trump Organization policy notably excludes payments from foreign government-owned corporations or other entities often used by foreign governments.
“We recognize that foreign governments can be organized in very different ways,” the pamphlet states. “Some may operate through state-owned and state-controlled entities in industries such as aerospace and defense, banking, finance, healthcare, energy and others, which may not be reasonably identifiable as foreign government entities, and therefore may not be included in our calculation of profit to be donated.”
Cummings said there were obvious “deficiencies” in the policy laid out by the Trump Organization pamphlet. Take, for instance, the Chinese-government owned bank that currently rents office space at Trump Tower in Manhattan. “Those payments would not be tracked in any way and would be hidden from the American public,” he said.
This pamphlet raises grave concerns about the President’s refusal to comply with the Constitution merely because he believes it is ‘impractical’ and could ‘diminish the guest experience of our brand.’ Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.)
At a Jan. 11 press conference before Trump took office, Trump lawyer Sheri Dillon said the Trump Organization would identify and return profits from foreign governments to the Treasury, even though she believed the emoluments clause did not apply to those payments.
On April 21, Cummings and House Oversight and Government Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) asked the company to detail exactly how it would identify and return foreign government profits flowing into its many businesses. They specifically asked the Trump Organization to explain how it identifies foreign government payments, how profits derived from those payments are calculated, how they will be returned to the U.S. Treasury, how those returned profits will be disclosed, whether the returned profits will be claimed by the company as a gift or tax deduction, and which Trump entities will be returning foreign government profits.
The Trump Organization only replied to the first three requests in its pamphlet. It did not state whether the total amount returned to the Treasury will be disclosed, if that returned total will be used to lower the company’s taxes or which entities owned by the president are tracking and returning foreign government profits.
Sorial wrote that “it is premature to respond at this time” to all of Chaffetz and Cummings’ questions, adding that he wouldn’t have the answers until the end of the year.
Cummings replied that this was an unacceptable response and demanded that the Trump Organization fully respond to the committee’s inquiry by June 2.
He added, “If President Trump believes that identifying all of the prohibited foreign emoluments he is currently receiving would be too challenging or would harm his business ventures, his options are to divest his ownership or submit a proposal to Congress to ask for our consent.”