Trump has long been criticized for potentially profiting from events and guests at his chain of resorts and hotels. Earlier this year, the president was forced to reverse course after he originally decided to host 2020's G7 economic summit at his Trump National Doral Miami luxury resort. Both Republicans and Democrats had said the idea of hosting world leaders at his business property was inappropriate.
Now, ethics experts say that Trump's latest promotion of the Mar-a-Lago resort is just the latest example of his mixing business with his White House duties.
"He's no longer pretending that he's not using the presidency to advertise his businesses," Jordan Libowitz told Newsweek. Libowitz is the communications director at the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a nonprofit government ethics and accountability watchdog.
"We've had decades of presidents who separated themselves from their assets in order to show the American people that they could not be bought, that they wouldn't have any potential economic loyalties that would make them think of themselves in front of the American people. But we now have a president who literally is using his official statements to advertise his business," Libowitz added.
People pay a couple hundred thousand a pop for membership and the ability to hob nob with the president. The money goes directly into Trump's pocket.
In other words, he's directly charging money for access. He's advertising it on his twitter feed from the White House.
And we are supposed to believe he's a global anti-corruption crusader? You've got to be kidding.
Here's Jamie Raskin sharply making that point in the impeachment hearing yesterday:
For the past 20 months, President Trump has received free personal legal services from one of America’s highest-paid lawyers, who has traveled around the country and across the ocean to defend him in the special counsel’s inquiry and press Ukraine to investigate a political rival and unfounded conspiracy theories.
The lawyer, of course, is Rudolph W. Giuliani, but Mr. Trump did not mention Mr. Giuliani or his unpaid labor on the annual financial disclosure he filed in May, which requires that the value and source of gifts — including free legal work — be publicly listed.
That requirement is cut and dried, said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. She cited guidance from the Office of Government Ethics, issued in November 2017, that states federal officials must disclose “gifts of legal defenses — in kind or by payment of the fees.”
“The purpose is to ensure the public has an opportunity to see whether there is any kind of corrupting influence,” said Ms. Clark, who has written on ethics issues involving government employees in need of lawyers.
During the presidency of Bill Clinton, for example, congressional Republicans and others suggested that some donors to Mr. Clinton’s legal defense funds were currying favor. The names of the donors and the amounts of their gifts were disclosed.
For his paying clients, Mr. Giuliani has been able to provide access to senior officials across the Trump administration.
Elizabeth Horton, a spokeswoman for the Office of Government Ethics, said she could not discuss whether Mr. Giuliani’s pro bono services should have been included in Mr. Trump’s financial disclosure. But in the past, when the agency has received complaints suggesting that information is missing, it has typically followed up with the office where the person works — in this case, the White House.
Scott F. Gast, the top White House ethics lawyer, did not respond to requests to discuss the matter; neither did Mr. Giuliani and his lawyer. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, also declined to comment.
Sure free legal work from a man getting money from clients all over the world who have business with the US Government and the president's personal business, which he has not divested.