As of this week, President Trump has amassed more than 3,500 conflicts of interest through his businesses, a number that — according to tracking by CREW — now includes visits from at least 150 individual foreign government officials to properties he still owns and profits from. The president’s decision before taking office to continue to own and profit from the Trump Organization while serving in the government set the stage for presidential corruption without precedent, which CREW has tracked since he took office.
CREW’s tracking draws from news, social media, and other sources. Earlier this month, the New York Times reported that the Romanian defense minister and top Romanian general appeared as guests of honor at a reception at the Trump hotel in Washington late in 2017. Because of the Trump Organization and Trump administration’s lack of transparency regarding foreign government officials patronizing the president’s business, it is impossible to pinpoint exactly when the 150th visit occurred, but this new information makes clear that our tally is now at least up to that figure.
Foreign governments and special interests seeking to influence the government got the message loud and clear that the Trump administration is open for business. Special interests have hosted or sponsored 137 events at Trump’s properties during his presidency, and foreign governments and groups close to them have hosted another thirteen. These entities have paid tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars, in effect allowing event hosts to curry favor with the Trump administration while personally enriching Trump himself. All together, these events have likely resulted in millions of dollars being spent at Trump properties.
Perhaps no conflict better illustrates the problem than foreign officials’ visits to Trump properties. In the weeks before Trump took office, one diplomat put it this way, “Why wouldn’t I stay at [Trump’s] hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’”
“Why wouldn’t I stay at [Trump’s] hotel blocks from the White House, so I can tell the new president, ‘I love your new hotel!’ Isn’t it rude to come to his city and say, ‘I am staying at your competitor?’”
That statement was prophetic. Nine months later, the president of Romania was spotted having breakfast at the Trump hotel in Washington the morning before he met with the president at the White House. Since Trump took office, 150 different foreign officials have made 182 visits to his properties, most commonly visiting the Trump hotel in Washington.
However, this tally only includes visits by foreign officials that CREW and other outlets have been able to identify. The number is almost certainly higher, leaving out instances that didn’t show up on social media or went unreported. Nor does CREW’s tally account for guests who aren’t in the government but who may be meeting or traveling with officials. For example, in the first three months of 2018, revenue from room rentals at the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan went up 13 percent thanks to “a last-minute visit to New York by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia,” whose entourage stayed at the hotel. Their spending put the hotel in the black for the quarter, after two years of decline.
Trump himself has brought foreign heads of state from China and Japan to his properties in Florida and New York for official visits. His visit to Mar-a-Lago with Chinese Leader Xi Jinping was “an unparalleled moneymaker,” according to The Grifter’s Club, a recent book by four Miami Herald reporters. That was thanks in part to the dozens of federal officials who had to be hosted there during the visit. Later, he sought to bring other world leaders to his Doral resort for the G-7 Summit, but caved to public backlash against the announcement. In other cases, like the Romanian president’s, foreign officials’ patronage took place around the same time as they got access to the White House.
In other instances, high-level members of the Trump administration have rewarded foreign governments’ patronage of Trump businesses by meeting them there. Kuwait booked the Trump hotel for its National Day celebration in 2017, 2018, and 2019. The 2019 event drew attendance from three Trump Cabinet officials and Kellyanne Conway. In another instance, then-Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke and the ambassador to Romania attended a reception in honor of the Romanian defense minister and a top general that was held at the Trump hotel.
Foreign government events at Trump businesses have also driven foreign officials’ visits. Sixty-seven foreign officials have attended one or more of these events, driving up the tab, which goes into the president’s pocket. Two annual conferences on Turkish relations that took place at the Trump hotel brought fifteen Turkish officials there. One of the events counted an office of the Turkish government as a sponsor.
Instead of draining the swamp, President Trump turned his own properties into its main attractions. Near the end of his first term in office, the staggering number of foreign officials who have paid a visit to one of them shows just how widely known it is that the Trump presidency is for sale to bidders at home and abroad.