Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause/Conflicts of Interest

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Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause/Conflicts of Interest

#1

Post by Addie » Fri Apr 21, 2017 3:50 pm

Thread title changed

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Think Progress
House Oversight Committee calls on Trump’s business to prove he’s not violating the Constitution

Days after a lawsuit accusing President Trump of violating the Constitution’s “emoluments clause” added more plaintiffs, the House Oversight Committee is requesting the Trump Organization turn over documents detailing what processes Trump’s business has implemented, if any, to make sure the president isn’t profiting from foreign governments who want to curry favor with him.

On Friday, the Oversight Committee sent a letter to Sheri Dillon — the lawyer who detailed how Trump planned to avoid conflicts of interest during a January 11 news conference — asking her to detail how that plan is being implemented by no later than May 12.

The Constitution prohibits presidents from accepting “any present, emolument, office, or title, of any kind whatever, from any king, prince, or foreign state.” But the Trump International Hotel has taken money from foreign governments to rent out event spaces and rooms at the hotel. And since Trump has broken presidential precedent by refusing to divest from his business interests, he stands to personally profit. ...

“The Trump Organization now says it plans to make the donation after the end of the calendar year,” USA Today reported, but Trump’s business “would not provide a copy of the policy or otherwise explain how Trump hotels and similar businesses will separate profits from foreign governments’ rentals of rooms and suites, conference rooms and banquet facilities, or payments for other services at its hotels, and deliver the money to the Treasury as the president and his lawyers spelled out in a nationally televised January news conference.”

Oversight Committee members want proof that Trump actually plans to do what he promised.


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Re: House Oversight Committee: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#2

Post by TexasFilly » Fri Apr 21, 2017 6:53 pm

Mr. Filly has been bitching about CREW's lawsuit not moving forward for months now (not like he should know anything about how slowly cases move in federal court or anything :brickwallsmall: ) I was pleased to inform him about the addition of more plaintiffs earlier this week, because I think standing is a weak point. Then I had to 'splain standing to him (again) :brickwallsmall: :brickwallsmall: :brickwallsmall: . I'll be sure to inform him of this latest development as soon as he gets back from his spring golf vacay. :violin:


ETA: Shocked to see @jasoninthehouse's siggy on that letter. Now I'm really starting to wonder what he's up to...


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Re: House Oversight Committee: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#3

Post by Addie » Fri Apr 21, 2017 10:56 pm

NPR
House Oversight Panel Has Questions About Trump Businesses And Foreign Emoluments

The Republican chairman and the top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are taking a look into the slowly brewing controversy of foreign cash flowing into President Trump's hotel in Washington, D.C. ...

Chaffetz and Cummings want documents showing how payments from "foreign government customers" will be identified, the profits calculated and the transfers to the Treasury tracked or disclosed.

They also want to know whether Trump, the Trump Organization or any Trump trust plans to claim the payments as tax-deductible gifts.

In a statement to NPR, Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center said the committee "has every reason to question the President's claim since he has a history of making questionable, misleading or false claims regarding charitable contributions in an effort to deflect criticism." Trump's foundation was ordered to stop soliciting contributions in New York because it was not registered to do so. He has also overstated his foundation's giving.


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Re: House Oversight Committee: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#4

Post by gupwalla » Fri Apr 21, 2017 11:05 pm

TexasFilly wrote:Mr. Filly has been bitching about CREW's lawsuit not moving forward for months now ...
Have you considered upping his fiber?


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Re: House Oversight Committee: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#5

Post by TexasFilly » Sat Apr 22, 2017 1:21 pm

gupwalla wrote:
TexasFilly wrote:Mr. Filly has been bitching about CREW's lawsuit not moving forward for months now ...
Have you considered upping his fiber?
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Re: House Oversight Committee: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#6

Post by Lani » Sat Apr 22, 2017 6:48 pm

AS VEGAS — President Trump’s companies own more than 400 condo units and home lots whose sale could steer millions of dollars to Trump, a USA TODAY investigation has found.

USA TODAY spent four months cataloging every property Trump's companies own across the country. Reporters found that Trump’s companies are sitting on at least $250 million of individual properties in the USA alone. Property records show Trump’s trust and his companies own at least 422 luxury condos and penthouses from New York City to Las Vegas, 12 mansion lots on bluffs overlooking his golf course on the Pacific Ocean and dozens more smaller pieces of real estate. The properties range in value from about $200,000 to $35 million each.

Unlike developments where Trump licenses his name to a separate developer for a flat fee, profits from selling individual properties directly owned by his companies ultimately enrich him personally.
:snippity:
The volume of real estate creates an extraordinary and unprecedented potential for people, corporations or foreign interests to try to influence a president. Anyone who wanted to court favor with the president could snap up multiple properties or purposefully overpay. They could buy in the name of a shell company, making it impossible for the public to know who was behind the sales.

The potential for conflicts is exacerbated by Trump's refusal to release his tax returns or fully separate himself from his businesses, breaking with precedent set by presidents going back four decades. Since Congress passed the Ethics in Government Act in 1978, all six presidents from Carter to Obama established blind trusts or limited investments to assets like mutual funds. Trump has not.
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/201 ... 100566302/

The Trump kleptocracy rolls along at a fast pace.


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Re: House Oversight Committee: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#7

Post by Addie » Mon Apr 24, 2017 5:43 pm

The Guardian
US embassy site triggers outrage by calling Mar-a-Lago 'winter White House'

The US embassy in London has been publicising Donald Trump’s country club at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, triggering outrage as the latest example of the blurring of lines between public institutions and the president’s business interests under the new administration.

A page on the embassy site is devoted to Mar-a-Lago, describing it as “the winter White House”, although it continues to be a private club with annual membership fees of $200,000. ...

The use of the state department website for such publicity was denounced by the president’s critics and government ethics experts.

Democratic Senator Ron Wyden asked on Twitter: “Why are taxpayer [dollars] promoting the President’s private country club?” and provided a link to the web page “in all its kleptocratic glory”.

Norman Eisen, who was special counsel for ethics and government reform in the Obama White House, said the web page broke federal regulations because the state department and embassies “are using official channels to promote a private business, which happens to be that of their ultimate superior, the president”.

Eisen said: “ This is outrageous – more exploitation of public office for Trump’s personal gain.”


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#8

Post by Addie » Mon May 22, 2017 4:37 pm

Talking Points Memo
Dem. Senator Calls For Ethics Probe Into Trump Org’s Public Pension Funding

The ranking member of the Senate committee responsible for regulating pensions on Monday urged the Office of Government Ethics to investigate whether President Donald Trump was violating the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, after a report that public pension funds in several states had paid millions to an investment fund that owns a Trump hotel.

Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democratic on the Health, Education, Labor & Pensions (HELP) Committee, wrote to the Office of Government Ethics on Monday that, based on recent reporting, “President Trump may be profiting from the retirement plans of millions of our nation’s public servants,” in violation of the Constitution’s prohibition on “domestic emoluments.”

She urged the office, which itself is a vocal critic of Trump’s business and ethics arrangements, to investigate the report. Murray’s letter cites a Reuters report from April 26 that found the Trump SoHo Hotel and Condominium in New York City was owned by one of the Los Angeles-based CIM Group’s real estate funds. State- and city-run pension funds in at least seven states, Reuters reported, had paid millions of dollars quarterly to that fund, which in turn paid out millions of dollars to Trump International Hotels Management LLC, which operates and manages the hotel and is controlled by Trump’s business trust.

Reuters said it was the first reported instance of public pension fund investment in Trump-affiliated businesses.


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#9

Post by Addie » Thu May 25, 2017 8:50 am

The Atlantic
The Trump Organization Says It's 'Not Practical' to Comply With the Emoluments Clause

Days before taking office, Donald Trump said his company would donate all profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, part of an effort to avoid even the appearance of a conflict with the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Now, however, the Trump Organization is telling Congress that determining exactly how much of its profits come from foreign governments is simply more trouble than it’s worth.

In response to a document request from the House Oversight Committee, Trump’s company sent a copy of an eight-page pamphlet detailing how it plans to track payments it receives from foreign governments at the firm’s many hotels, golf courses, and restaurants across the globe. But while the Trump Organization said it would set aside all money it collects from customers that identify themselves as representing a foreign government, it would not undertake a more intensive effort to determine if a payment would violate the Constitution’s prohibition on public office holders accepting an “emolument” from a foreign state.

“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 Trump Organization wrote in its policy pamphlet, which the company’s chief compliance officer said had been distributed to general managers and senior officials at all of its properties.

The statement drew an angry response from the top Democrat on the Oversight Committee, Representative Elijah Cummings of Maryland, who said the policy “raised grave concerns about the president’s refusal to comply with the Constitution.” In a letter replying to the company, Cummings said it would be easy for a government like Russia to funnel money to the Trump Organization through unofficial entities, such as RT, its state-run television station. “Those payments would not be tracked in any way and would be hidden from the American public,” the Democrat wrote.


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#10

Post by noblepa » Thu May 25, 2017 9:36 am

I still don't understand why the GSA, which owns the building and leases it to Trump, haven't filed suit. The lease unequivocally states that no elected official can have ANY interest in the lease. That means that by simply operating the hotel, Trump is in violation of the lease contract.

Other properties that Trump owns might be subject to interpretation as to whether they are conflicts of interest or not, but the lease on the old Post Office building would not seem to be one of them.

I heard on NPR the other day, that Trump is selling a Caribbean resort he bought four or five years ago. At the time, the asking price was $20M. He probably paid $15M. I don't know what his asking price is, but, say the fair market value is $25M and some foreign oligarch or billionaire buys it from him for $35M, in order to curry favor with the President. Would that constitute a conflict or a violation of the emoluments clause?



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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#11

Post by MN-Skeptic » Wed Jun 07, 2017 12:46 pm

From Politico -
Dems step up demands for Trump hotel records

House Democrats are escalating their battle against a Trump administration directive instructing federal agencies not to respond to oversight requests issued by Democratic lawmakers.

The White House acknowledged the new policy last week, backed by a Justice Department legal opinion that says individual members of the House and Senate don't have a special right to obtain executive branch information beyond the way members of the public can through Freedom of Information Act requests.

Democratic lawmakers have been battling the administration over their demands for various records related to the Trump International Hotel, which operates on a lease from the federal government's General Services Administration. President Donald Trump has retained ownership of his businesses, though he has said he is not involved in managing them.

The 18 Democratic members of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee stepped up their efforts to get the documents Monday by sending a letter to the GSA invoking a somewhat-obscure 1928 law that allows any seven members of the panel to demand information from the executive branch. It provides a rare legal basis for minority-party lawmakers to conduct oversight without the approval of congressional leaders.
More at the link.

Also - a link to the Justice Department's opinion that the Committee has no rights to these records. And a link to the Democrats letter saying Yes, we do and here's an explanation of the Seven Member Rule which requires that you comply.


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#12

Post by much ado » Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:06 pm

Yes, I like that letter. It gives the GSA until June 23 to provide the unredacted information.

Will it require legal action to get the GSA to comply?



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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#13

Post by Kendra » Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:16 pm

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ri ... fdc48f5d0b
Again and again today at the hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats and National Security Agency Director Adm. Michael Rogers refused to answer direct questions as to whether they had been asked by the president to interfere with the information. In response to Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Susan Collins (R-Maine), Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Angus King (I-Maine), they said they did not feel “pressured” and/or “directed” but declined to say whether they were asked. FBI acting director McCabe also refused to say if he had conversations with former FBI director James B. Comey about his conversations with the president. And then Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein refused to explain how and why Attorney General Jeff Sessions un-recused himself and whether he understood his memo would be used to fire Comey.

None of these witnesses invoked executive privilege or national security. They just didn’t want to answer. King finally blew up, scolding Rogers that what he “feels” isn’t relevant. He demanded to know why Rogers and Coats were not answering. He demanded a “legal justification” for not answering, and the witnesses did not supply any. Coats strongly hinted he would share information, just not in public, and that he would cooperate with the special prosecutor.
This is nothing short of outrageous. Congress has an independent obligation to conduct oversight. Witnesses cannot simply decide they don’t want to share. If they could, there would be no oversight. While they were not under subpoena, their behavior was contemptuous and frankly unprecedented. The committee has the option to subpoena witnesses, demand answers and then hold them in contempt if they decline to answer. (Is that what the witnesses are hoping for, so they will be seen as having no choice?) It is hard to see any reason why Congress should not do so. A source not authorized to speak on the record but familiar with his thinking told me, “Senator Heinrich will seek to get answers one way or another.” It should be noted that no closed-door sessions are scheduled.
Thoughts? Are they stalling in wait of Comey's testimony? Or is something else going on?



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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#14

Post by Sterngard Friegen » Wed Jun 07, 2017 1:46 pm

Who knows? Under Occams Razor they were probably asked and they don't want to testify to an impeachable offense. Since the Republican Party is in the toilet with Trump, nothing will happen unless the House decides to investigate Trump for impeachment. In other words, nothing will happen.



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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#15

Post by bob » Wed Jun 07, 2017 4:23 pm

Sterngard Friegen wrote:Who knows? Under Occams Razor they were probably asked and they don't want to testify to an impeachable offense. Since the Republican Party is in the toilet with Trump, nothing will happen unless the House decides to investigate Trump for impeachment. In other words, nothing will happen.
Accord: Slate: If Intel Officials Could Have Testified to Trump’s Obstruction Innocence, They Would Have:
To the senators’ mounting frustration, the intelligence officials repeatedly refused to answer their questions. Those refusals, however, tell us a lot. It appears they couldn’t defend Trump without committing perjury. Nor could they tell the truth without dramatically undermining Trump’s administration. So, in a series of increasingly contentious exchanges, they simply defied the lawmakers tasked with overseeing their agencies.

* * *

Then [Senator] King turned to [DNI] Coats, who started to echo Rogers’ answer about appropriateness. King cut him off. “I’m not satisfied with, ‘I do not believe it is appropriate’ or ‘I do not feel I should answer,’ ” he said. “I want to understand the legal basis. You swore that oath, to tell us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. And today you’re refusing to do so. What is the legal basis for your refusal to testify to this committee?”

In an extraordinary moment, a stumbling Coats replied, “I’m not sure I have a legal basis.” He then said he’d answer the questions during a closed session. King pressed him for a commitment to answer the questions “in a direct and unencumbered way” in closed session later on Wednesday. Coats said he first needed to talk to the general counsel in the White House. Faced with the same question, [NSA director] Rogers also said he needed to consult the White House. (The chairman of the committee, Sen. Richard Burr, later said that the classified Wednesday briefing was going to be with lower ranking officials on technical matters. A closed-door session on the crucial question of whether or not the President of the United States asked intelligence officials to intervene to shut down an investigation into his campaign and its possible collusion with Russia could take place at a later date)

“It is my belief that you are inappropriately refusing to answer these questions today,” King concluded. He’s clearly right. Nevertheless, their unwillingness to testify to Trump’s innocence already answers a great deal.


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#16

Post by AndyinPA » Wed Jun 07, 2017 4:47 pm

I think they don't have a legal leg to stand on, which is why they answered the way they did. This may work, and apparently did, for this republican-led committee, but it will be a whole different story when they get in front of Mueller and a grand jury.

I also think the way they answered pretty much answered the question, which is, of course, trump asked us.

I heard Ari Mulber (?) on MSNBC give three legal excuses they could have used to refuse to answer the question, but they used none of them, not even acting on the advice of their attorneys.

(And I just clicked back on MSNBC briefly [it's Nicole Wallace's show; won't watch it], and what the hell is Chris Christy doing on there?) :confused:



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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#17

Post by gupwalla » Wed Jun 07, 2017 9:39 pm

If the honest answer were "no" then they would have given that answer. So they've provided their answer to the Senate even if they couldn't articulate it and still have jobs tomorrow.

Coats was a mess - I don't think he's comfortable being on the other side of the desk in that room - but Rogers was pretty emphatic that any direction to shut down the FBI investigation would be illegal, and there was an air of disgust at the idea he'd still be wearing his uniform or working for the government if he'd been directed to violate the law. He certainly left the door open that he might have been subjected to a question or request or stream-of-consciousness musing about troublesome priests.

Don McGahn and his team are now under the Kliegs. Either OWHC clearly directs its Executive Branch clients to answer oversight questions by the Senate, or it invokes Executive Privilege. It can't do the latter without having a conversation with the President to determine whether there is a legal basis for invoking the privilege (and I'm not sure they have had that conversation yet, which is why I don't think the privilege has been invoked). Conversations between the President and OWHC are not subject to attorney-client privilege, and improper invocation of Executive Privilege to conceal legitimate oversight by Congress could be the basis of additional obstruction of justice charges, so this is a pretty little trap.

Meanwhile, the CNN commentators noted the "bipartisan frustration" - and as I noted yesterday, I think the big story on tomorrow's Comey testimony is going to be the lack of typical partisanship or distractions. This is the preamble. The Senate is feeling its oats. Yesterday, Mike Conaway and Adam Schiff gave a joint news conference in which they basically agreed with one another that the US people deserved an aggressive and complete investigation, but that much of it would remain confidential until it was appropriate to make a public statement (and they committed to those public statements) - so the House is also feeling its oats. Even Ted Fucking Yoho of all people sounded mostly reasonable in his CNN interview and left himself plenty of elbow room to move based on the evidence.

Article III has defended against the worst and earliest excesses of this administration. Article II is now starting to consolidate and exert its institutional prerogatives. Checks and balances will save us all.


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#18

Post by bob » Wed Jun 07, 2017 11:33 pm

Politico: Democrats to sue Trump over conflicts of interest:
Dozens of House and Senate Democrats plan to sue President Donald Trump in the coming weeks, claiming he is breaking the law by refusing to relinquish ownership of his sprawling real-estate empire while it continues to profit from business with foreign governments.

The lawsuit follows months of threats from Democratic lawmakers that Trump, by refusing to sell off his companies or place them in a blind trust, is in ongoing violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause — which prohibits the president from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments — and might face consequences.

“We’ll be suing to stop his violations of the emoluments clause,” senior House Judiciary member Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) confirmed in an interview. The lawsuit won’t be filed until next week at the earliest but dozens of Democrats on both sides of the Capitol have already signed on in support, Nadler said.

* * *

Nadler said by his latest count a couple of weeks ago, 78 House Democrats and 25 Democratic senators had signed on in support of the lawsuit. The nonprofit Constitutional Accountability Center is leading the case, Nadler said.
Eternal springs of hope, and all that.


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#19

Post by Suranis » Wed Jun 07, 2017 11:48 pm

How van they sue him without impeaching him? I thought the Prez was immune from legal censure


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause

#20

Post by Addie » Thu Jan 11, 2018 12:27 pm

Business Insider - Natasha Bertrand
Democrats call for Trump Organization subpoena as part of 'serious investigation' into Trump conflicts of interest

One year after then-President-elect Donald Trump made it clear he would not fully divest himself from his vast business empire, Democrats are calling on the chairman of the House Oversight Committee to subpoena the Trump Organization for documents detailing the foreign government payments that it received in 2017.

"One year ago today, on January 11, 2017, President-elect Trump held a press conference to announce that he would not liquidate his assets or establish an independent blind trust," the House Oversight Democrats wrote in a letter to the Republican chairman, Rep. Trey Gowdy.

Trump's attorney, Sheri Dillon, told reporters last year that while the US Constitution did "not require" Trump "to do anything here," Trump had decided to "do more than what the Constitution requires" and voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the US treasury. ...

The Democrats called on Gowdy to issue a subpoena to the Trump Organization for documents referring or relating to "the process by which payments from foreign governments or foreign government-owned entities are identified"; "the process or formula by which the profits from such payments are calculated"; "the manner in which those profits are donated to the US treasury"; how details about the profits donated to the Treasury are "tracked or publicly reported"; and whether the Trump Organization, Trump, or his trust "plans to claim donations to the US treasury as a gift for tax deduction purposes."

The Democrats also want documents "showing which specific entities within the Trump Organization" have donated, or plan to donate, the profits they have received from foreign government entities.


Dem Letter to Gowdy


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Re: Congressional Oversight: Re Trump, Emoluments Clause/Conflicts of Interest

#21

Post by Addie » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:16 am

Quartz
Trump’s getting a new tax break on his anonymous real estate deals ...

The US president had long insisted that his bill would cost him “a fortune,” but this addition clearly helps rich people in his industry. It gives a 20% windfall to pass-through businesses like LLCs which don’t pay corporate tax on their profits, instead passing it through to their owners who then pay personal tax on it as income. As Quartz has documented, Trump makes extensive use of LLCs in his own real estate dealings.

There were plenty of reasons to make this available to huge swaths of small American businesses, but even Republican lawmakers were at a loss to explain why it was now helping real estate LLCs, which don’t tend to employ many people.

Meanwhile, data uncovered by USA Today reveals a huge shift in how clients of the Trump Organization buy. In the two years before Trump became the Republican presidential nominee, just 4% of his customers used LLCs to buy his real estate—now that number is at 70%, USA Today reports. If and when those buyers sell their apartments, they stand to make a much larger windfall on the profits, following the tax bill’s passage.

Shell companies are often used in the real estate sector to hide owners’ real identities, as well as for their potential tax benefits. At least one Trump buyer told USA Today that the anonymity motivated him—alongside other financial benefits. But shrouding buyers’ identities in secrecy creates an ethical quandary: if watchdogs don’t know who they are, it’s very difficult to know to know if buyers are currying favor with the president.


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