The Trump Organisation is not attempting to track whether guests at its hotels and other properties are representatives from foreign governments, a document released by the leading Democrat on the House Oversight Committee showed Wednesday.
Instead, the document showed that the Trump Organisation is relying on such officials to self-report any ties to foreign governments.
President Donald Trump pledged just prior to taking office that his business would donate to the US Treasury all profits accumulated from guests at his property connected to foreign governments.
In April, Republican Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland — the chair and ranking member of the oversight committee, respectively — requested information from attorney Sheri Dillon, who announced the plan at a January news conference, for information “about the implementation and timing” of Trump’s pledge. The plan came in response to suggestions that, as soon as he took office, Trump could be violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which bars foreign gifts to the president.
Cummings on Wednesday released the May 11 response both congressmen received — a nine-page, glossy pamphlet filled with photos of Trump properties.
“To fully and completely identify all patronage at our properties by customer type is impractical in the service industry and putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand,” the pamphlet read. “It is not the intention nor design of this policy for our properties to attempt to identify individual travellers who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government entity on foreign government business.”
Instead, the Trump Organisation wrote that “to practically track and identify foreign government revenues received from customers representing a foreign government,” it would utilise three sources of information.
Those sources included “all direct billings from the property to a foreign government,” “all contracted group, banquet, and catering business with the property from a foreign government,” and “all payments received by the property via check or electronic payment from a reasonably identifiable foreign government entity.”
The Trump Organisation also said that it would make an annual, lump-sum payment of the recorded profits to the US Treasury.
In a May 11 letter attached with the pamphlet, George Sorial, the executive vice president and chief compliance counsel for the Trump Organisation, wrote to Chaffetz and Cummings that the policy was distributed to “all general managers and was implemented at each hotel, golf, social club, and winery locations.”
In a response sent Wednesday, Cummings said the pamphlet makes it clear that Trump’s business won’t try to identify all foreign payments it receives. He also complained of the lack of documentation the committee leaders received in response to their original April request.
“Unfortunately, your meager response does not include the vast majority of documents we requested in our letter,” Cummings wrote. “Instead, you provided only a single document — a glossy, eight-page pamphlet that contains a total of 40 sentences — and an email forwarding this pamphlet to various Trump Organisation entities. 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.'”
“Complying with the United States Constitution is not an optional exercise, but a requirement for serving as our nation’s president,” Cummings said. “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.”
Cummings noted his concern that guests at Trump hotels and properties would have to “self-report voluntarily and proactively.”
“The deficiencies in this approach are obvious,” he wrote. “Under the policy outlined in this pamphlet, foreign governments could provide prohibited emoluments to President Trump, for example, through organisations such as RT (Russia Today), the propaganda arm of the Russian government, or a host of other entities that are funded or controlled by foreign governments. Those payments would not be tracked in any way and would be hidden from the American public.”
Cummings requested that Sorial brief the oversight committee by June 2 and provide it with all of the information originally requested.
Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the left-leaning ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said in a statement that the process by which the Trump Organisation was handling payments from foreign governments at its properties “is wholly inadequate.” He called for the president to completely divest from all his businesses.
“This effort to address the problem is not a serious one,” Bookbinder said. “This policy only addresses his hotels and resorts and not the many other benefits he’s taking from foreign governments, such as the rent paid by China in Trump Tower or the valuable trademarks the Chinese government has given him since he became president. Even within the scope of this policy applying to hotels and resorts, the plan does not come close to addressing the full problem. It specifically says it is not accounting for individual guests.”
“You don’t get to violate the Constitution and then say you’re only going to address some instances and not others because it’s inconvenient to do so,” he added.
Read the full pamphlet the Trump Organisation sent:
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