A reminder: Donald Trump did not divest from his companies upon being elected, and continues to make cash profits from them even while acting as “president.” While some of the profits are known (like increased fees at his Palm Beach resort and meetups between conservative groups and members of his administration at his new D.C. hotel), the sources of other presidential profits are being carefully concealed.
President Trump’s companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive shell companies that obscure buyers’ identities, continuing a dramatic shift in his customers’ behavior that began during the election, a USA TODAY review found.
In Las Vegas alone, Trump sold 41 luxury condo units in 2017, a majority of which used limited liability companies – corporate entities that allow people to purchase property without revealing all of the owners’ names.
USA TODAY reports that this behavior—hiding the true property buyers in this fashion—was not usual for Trump in past years, but started “around the time he won the Republican nomination” in 2016.
This is, of course, grotesque behavior. It is the whole point of why we have, on every other occasion, required elected officials to divest themselves from their for-profit holdings. It is so unnamed figures cannot give them large piles of cash in exchange for any government action, or as reward for any government action, or as wink-wink-nudge-nudge act of unrelated kindness toward a government official that will presumably be remembered by that official when it comes time to draft new regulations that might affect their new best financial friend.
Hillary Clinton, you will remember, was attacked for the perception that donations to a charity run in the Clinton name might affect government positions. Now the same voices that shouted themselves hoarse over that would-be scandal are remaining absolutely silent over a sitting Republican president using the office as billboard for his real estate business, and over a near-complete lack of disclosure over just who is paying him cash for what.
It is not normal—but if allowed to continue it risks becoming normal for office-holders from here on in. That surely cannot be what honest Republican lawmakers want to see happen, right?