Donald Trump made up to $160 million from international business dealings while he was serving as president of the United States, according to an analysis of his tax returns by CREW.
Throughout his time in office, President Trump, his family and his Republican allies repeatedly assured the public that his refusal to divest from his businesses wouldn’t lead to any conflicts of interest. Americans were promised that Trump would donate his salary, which he did, until maybe he didn’t—all while siphoning millions from taxpayers that more than offset his presidential pay. When it came to foreign conflicts of interest, Trump and his company pledged to pause foreign business. They did not.
Trump pulled in the most money from the United Kingdom, where his Aberdeen and Turnberry golf courses in Scotland helped him gross $58 million. Trump’s now-defunct hotel and tower in Vancouver helped him pull in $36.5 million from Canada. Trump brought in more than $24.4 million from Ireland, home to his often-visited Doonbeg golf course, as well as $9.6 million from India, and nearly $9.7 million from Indonesia.
Trump’s presidency was marred by unprecedented conflicts of interest arising from his decision not to divest from the Trump Organization, with his most egregious conflicts involving businesses in foreign countries with interests in US foreign policy.
The full extent to which Trump’s foreign business ties influenced his decision making as president may never be known, but there is plenty of evidence that Trump’s actions in the White House were influenced–if not guided–by his financial interests, subverting the national interests for his own parochial concerns. For example, while campaigning in 2015, Trump bragged to a crowd in Alabama about his longstanding business ties with the Saudis. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” he told the crowd. “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.” In office, Trump continued to benefit from Saudi business and faced repeated criticism, especially in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, for his apparent desire to shield Saudi leaders from criticism, going so far as to question US intelligence while parroting allegations from Saudi Arabia that Khashoggi was tied to the Muslim Brotherhood.
Other instances of Trump’s business interests bleeding into his administration’s foreign policy abound. In 2019, Trump stunned the US foreign policy establishment by pulling US troops out of northeast Syria. The decision had no obvious benefits to the US and was a bombshell reversal to allied Kurds, but it was a victory for Turkey, where Trump had done business for years. In China, Trump again shocked even his GOP allies when he pledged to help sanctioned Chinese company ZTE because, as he tweeted, there were “[t]oo many jobs in China lost,” despite warnings from US intelligence officials that the company’s products may be used by the Chinese government to spy on Americans. When Trump’s tax returns were released more than four years later, they showed a Chinese bank account he claimed to have closed in 2015 and, according to CREW’s analysis, more than $7.5 million in income from China. In Argentina, Trump held off on enacting tariffs until after trademarks for his company had been approved.
Trump also used the US foreign policy apparatus to direct business to his properties. For example, Trump’s Ambassador to the United Kingdom reportedly told embassy staff that Trump pushed him to get the British Open to be held at one of his Scottish golf resorts. During a trip to Europe, Trump insisted on staying at his remote Irish resort in Doonbeg, claiming it was “convenient,” while the Trump Organization promoted his visit. Trump also reportedly pressured the Irish prime minister to meet him at Doonbeg, and threatened to move his visit to Scotland instead if he didn’t.
Despite a near constant stream of reporting about corruption involving Trump’s business at home and abroad, Trump and his family have spent years swearing they put a hold on all foreign deals and that the presidency was without conflicts of interest. After his election Trump proclaimed, “The law’s totally on my side, meaning, the president can’t have a conflict of interest.” Eric and Don Jr. echoed that sentiment. In a June 2017 interview on Good Morning America, Eric proclaimed that he and his father didn’t talk about business at all and that Trump has “zero conflicts of interest.” In October 2019 Eric said on Fox News, “when my father became commander in chief of this country, we got out of all international business.”
The Trumps did not put a hold on foreign business. In fact, they even signed new deals. Barely two weeks after Eric Trump claimed the Trump Organization put foreign business on hold, the Trump Organization trumpeted approval to build “a new ballroom, pool, spa, leisure facilities, 235 additional resort rooms, gate house and much more” at the Doonbeg golf course in Ireland. A local council in Scotland also voted to allow the Trump Organization to expand its Aberdeen golf course by building 550 homes and a second golf course. Eric Trump celebrated this “new phase of development” on Twitter. At the same time, Eric was bashing Hunter Biden on Fox News for “cashing in” while his father was vice president.
The Trumps took advantage of the presidency to revive dormant old deals as well, revisiting projects in countries like India, Uruguay, the Dominican Republic, and more during the administration.
The Trumps were openly engaging in multiple international business deals and let the world know that they hoped to continue expanding internationally after Trump left office. According to the Wall Street Journal, Eric Trump predicted that after Trump leaves office, the “Trump Organization will launch a major expansion that will in part focus on luxury hotels abroad.” Don Jr. was even more specific, telling an Indian newspaper, “India is a market that we would be very interested [in] post politics,” along with “other markets.”
It’s no secret that Trump was struggling financially before he announced his run for office. His tax returns show that the presidency was great for his bank account. Congressional Republicans may have halted their inquiry into Trump’s finances, but there is still much to discover about the extent to which he truly abused the presidency for his own personal profit.