April 25, 2019
President Trump’s hand-picked IRS Commissioner, Charles Rettig, earns as much as $1 million in rental income from the Trump-branded properties he co-owns while facing demands from Congress to release Trump’s tax returns. The IRS has already missed more than one deadline set by the House Ways and Means Committee to turn over Trump’s tax returns. (Rettig has stated that he will decide whether or not to release the tax returns, under the supervision of Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.)
When Trump nominated Rettig to lead the IRS in February 2018, Rettig initially failed to disclose that the Hawaii real estate he owned was at a Trump-branded property. He bought a 50 percent interest in two units at Trump International Waikiki in 2006 ahead of the building’s completion in 2009. It is likely that Trump profited off of his future-IRS commissioner’s purchase; although the Trump Organization does not own the Waikiki property, its branding deal gave it a 10 percent share of total pre-sales.
Records indicate Rettig is definitely making money from this purchase: on his financial disclosure, he reported an income between $100,000 and $1 million in rent and/or royalties from the units. The two one-bedroom condos are valued around $1.2 million each, according to Hawaii property records. President Trump also made a promotional appearance at the property in 2017 ahead of a diplomatic trip.
Rettig’s financial interest at Trump-branded property raises serious ethics questions as the president continues to fight to keep his tax returns secret. The public has a strong interest in seeing the president’s tax returns to understand whether he is using the White House to further his own bottom line. The fact that Trump’s IRS Commissioner is entangled in the president’s business interests means we have to ask whether Rettig’s decision on releasing the president’s tax returns is based on the public interest or his own financial interests.