McClatchy reports that the Trump Organization has broken one of the first promises Trump made after his election: to ensure that the organization does not do business with foreign governments.
A major construction company owned by the Chinese government was hired to work on the latest Trump golf club development in Dubai despite a pledge from Donald Trump that his family business would not engage in any transactions with foreign government entities while he serves as president.
Trump’s partner, DAMAC Properties, awarded a $32-million contract to the Middle East subsidiary of China State Construction Engineering Corporation to build a six-lane road as part of the residential piece of the Trump World Golf Club Dubai project called Akoya Oxygen, according to news releases released by both companies. It is scheduled to open next year.
The companies’ statements do not detail the exact timing of the contract except to note it was sometime in the first two months of 2017, just as Trump was inaugurated and questions were raised about a slew of potential conflicts of interest between his presidency and his vast real estate empire.
The Chinese company, known as CSCEC, is majority government-owned — according to Bloomberg and Moody’s, among others — an arrangement that generally encourages growth and drives out competition. It was listed as the 7th largest company in China and 37th worldwide with nearly $130 billion in revenues in 2014, according to Fortune’s Global 500 list.
At a news conference on January 11, 2017, Trump announced that he would be the beneficiary of a trust holding his assets in the Trump Organization. I cannot find the actual language of the trust agreement online, but the arrangement with the Chinese-owned company violates the terms of the trust agreement as laid out in a white paper prepared for that press conference. The white paper states:
[T]he Trust Agreement prohibits The Trump Organization from entering into any new transaction or contract with a foreign country, agency, or instrumentality thereof, including a sovereign wealth fund, foreign government official, or member of a royal family, the United States government or any agency or instrumentality thereof, or any state or local government or any agency or instrumentality thereof, other than normal and customary arrangements already undertaken before the President-Elect’s election.
Obviously, a contract signed “sometime in the first two months of 2017” was not signed before Trump’s election. Trump defenders may claim that, for all we know, the deal was struck in principle before the 2016 election, and merely set down on paper in the first two months of 2017. But in the press conference, Dillon said already pending deals not yet finalized had been terminated, at great expense to Trump and his family:
Through instructions in the trust agreement, President-elect trust — President-elect Trump first ordered that all pending deals be terminated. This impacted more than 30 deals, many of which were set to close by the end of 2016. As you can well imagine, that caused an immediate financial loss of millions of dollars, not just for President-elect Trump, but also for Don, Ivanka and Eric.
There is really no excuse for this arrangement. It is a financial arrangement made after Trump’s election with a foreign government by the Trump Organization. It violates Trump’s promises to the American people. Trump is simply banking on the notion that nobody will call him on it — or if they do, his supporters will shrug their shoulders, as they shrug at all his ethical lapses.
By the way, in that same press conference, Dillon also claimed:
President-elect Trump has decided, and we are announcing today, that he is going to voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury. This way, it is the American people who will profit.
It hasn’t happened yet. Color me skeptical that it ever will.
I know it makes Trump supporters angry when people point out things like his broken promises and questionable ethical arrangements. That attitude makes it even more important to talk about them. Were this Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, these exact same people would scream to the heavens and never stop — so I’m not terribly interested in listening to them whine about how we should ignore this.
Donald Trump was elected in part on the argument that he could “drain the swamp” — that he could uniquely limit the influence of lobbyists and foreign governments on the workings of government. He promised specific ways that he would deal with the issue of retaining a financial stake in his businesses while occupying the Oval Office. Now that we are learning that he broke that promise, those who actually care about draining the swamp should raise hell.