Trump Conflicts And Corruption Continue To Pile Up
July 6, 2017
Over the Fourth of July weekend, Trump again visited his own properties, where he played golf and promoted the TrumpOrganization. Meanwhile, more news of his ongoing corruption and conflicts of interest continues to pile up.
Trump celebrated the 4th of July holiday weekend by visiting two of his for-profit golf courses in four days.
NJ.com: “President Donald Trump departed his Bedminster golf club Monday, returning to the White House where a picnic for the military was to be held Independence Day. Trump again made no public appearances in New Jersey, as has been the practice during each of his three trips to his golf club that apparently will be his go-to place on summer weekends. … Trump left the golf club only once during his stay, to fly to Washington Saturday for a rally led by an evangelical pastor at the Kennedy Center. He returned to Bedminster that evening.”
The Hill: “President Trump is spending part of his Fourth of July holiday at his golf club in Virginia, making it his 36th day at a golf course as president. It's also his 50th visit to a Trump-owned venue in 165 days. The president is known for spending his weekends at Trump properties, including his Mar-a-Lago luxury resort in West Palm Beach, Fla., and golf clubs in Virginia and New Jersey.”
Trump’s New Jersey Visits cost Bedminster, New Jersey thousands of dollars and grounded activity at 19 airports across two states.
Philadelphia Inquirer: “Just what does it cost Bedminster, N.J., every weekend that President Trump visits his golf club there? $8,064 is what the little Somerset County town billed the government when he visited in November as president-elect. And that didn’t include the $17,893.38 that state lawmakers say it cost the county Prosecutor’s Office.”
NJ Advance Media: “Despite a beautiful view under sunny skies, the mood at Blairstown Airport these days is gloomy. The problem isn’t the wind, whose updrafts constantly sweep off the ridges of the Kittatinny Mountains to the west. Nor is it the customers, for whom any kind of flying — whether as a pilot or a passenger — continues to fascinate. No, the problem is nearly an hour away, by car: President Donald Trump’s weekend visits to his golf club in Bedminster. For the duration of any of his stays there, smaller aircraft cannot operate out of any airport within 30 nautical miles. … The economic impact is heightened by the region’s population density, which means the 30-mile restrictions cover 19 small airports in two states.”
The GSA officer who made the formal decision in March that Trump owning the Old Post Office hotel did not violate the GSA’s lease, called concerns of conflicts of interest “nonsense” in an email to a Trump executive shortly after the election.
Bloomberg: “Trump’s representatives argued that the president signed the lease three full years before his election. His lawyers said in a court filing in May that forcing him to give up his ownership interest ‘could result in enormous personal financial loss for the president.’ After signing the lease in August 2013, Trump’s company spent more than $200 million renovating the building, which was formerly owned by the U.S. Postal Service. In a decision released March 23, Terry determined that Trump’s ownership didn’t violate the lease terms, and his company was ‘in full compliance with the pact.’”
Bloomberg: “Shortly after Donald Trump won the presidential election, the U.S. official who oversees the lease of his signature Washington hotel offered Trump’s company an assessment of a report about its potential conflict of interest: ‘Nonsense.’ … Kevin Terry, the GSA’s contracting officer in charge of the hotel lease, referred to the issue in a Nov. 11, 2016, email to Trump’s company, forwarding an article from the news site BuzzFeed that said his agency had acknowledged the potential conflict of interest. ‘FYI – A fair amount of nonsense,’ Terry wrote. His email, which was obtained by Bloomberg News, went to two other GSA employees as well as to an executive with the Trump Organization, the umbrella group that oversees the president’s various businesses.”
Ethics experts and government watchdogs called for an inspector general investigation into the GSA official’s decision shortly after it was released.
Bloomberg: “Soon after Terry’s March decision was released, a coalition of ethicists, government-watchdog groups and liberal organizations wrote to GSA’s inspector general asking for a review of the determination. The inspector general’s office has neither confirmed nor denied that it’s conducting a review.”
While campaigning to be president, Trump appeared to avoid hundreds of thousands of dollars in gift taxes on condos he sold to his son Eric for less than half their listing price.
ProPublica: “In April 2016, as Donald Trump was on the cusp of clinching the Republican nomination for the White House, he sold two luxury condos near Manhattan’s Central Park for less than half the price his company had said they were worth. The lucky buyer: Trump’s son, Eric. Such family-friendly deals would normally incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in gift taxes. But in this case, Trump appears unlikely to have been on the hook for anywhere near that, thanks to benefits only available to real estate developers.”
ProPublica: “Eric Trump bought the two condos on the two top floors of the Trump Parc East building at 100 Central Park South for $350,000 each. Trump Organization filings show that, as of February 2016 — two months before Trump sold the apartments to Eric — the condos were priced at $790,000 and $800,000. A similar one-bedroom condo on a lower floor at the same building sold for $690,000 in 2014.”
As a real estate developer, Trump had flexibility to determine the value of apartments he sold to his family, which Eric Trump later sold for more money.
ProPublica: “The transactions illustrate the unique advantages that real estate developers like Trump have when passing down valuable assets between generations. … An owner who sells real estate for less than it’s worth would typically have to pay gift tax on the difference between the sales price and the true market value. Any personal gifts that are worth more than $14,000 in a year are subject to up to 40 percent in federal taxes. But as the building’s developer selling the units for the first time, Trump had lots of flexibility within the law to determine the value of the apartments.”