Donald Trump made more than a billion dollars while serving as president, including $14 million in income from his business interests in Indonesia from 2015 to 2019, according to a CREW analysis of his tax returns. During that same period, he earned $234 million in total from businesses in foreign countries with interests in U.S. foreign policy.
CREW spent years ringing the alarm bell on the unprecedented number of conflicts of interest that marred Trump’s presidency, arising from his decision not to separate from the Trump Organization when he entered office. Trump’s conflicts of interest in Indonesia ranked among the most egregious.
During his presidency, Trump’s son met with Indonesian government officials, the daughter of his Indonesian business partner obtained a high-ranking government position with authority over Trump’s businesses, and once he left office one of the developments he profited from received special tax breaks from the Indonesian government. Trump was making millions from the country as those events took place.
Trump’s business interests in Indonesia date back to 2015, just months after he announced his run for president, when his company signed a licensing agreement for the Indonesian conglomerate MNC to build and manage two developments with Trump-branded elements. Through their work together on the Bali and Lido City resorts, Trump became friends with the businessman behind MNC, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, called Hary Tanoe by the Indonesian media. In the months leading up to the 2016 election, Tanoe introduced the future president to a host of Indonesian politicians and was invited to D.C. in 2017 to attend Trump’s inauguration ceremony. That year was Trump’s most lucrative in terms of his foreign income, according to his tax returns, as he reported $5.7 million in income from Indonesia.
In 2019 MNC stated on its website that an “aggressive global expansion” of the “Trump International Portfolio” was “underway,” with “numerous projects in the pipeline.” That summer, Don Jr. traveled to Jakarta to attend a “pre-launch” event for the two Trump-branded properties. While he denied claims that his trip posed any conflicts of interest between his business and the Trump Administration, social media posts from the event show that Indonesian government officials and others with close ties to the Indonesian government seized the opportunity for facetime with the son of the president of the United States.
Trump also gained a close friend within the Indonesian government. Tanoe’s daughter Angela was appointed by Indonesian president Joko Widodo to serve as Deputy Minister of Tourism and Creative Economy in his government, putting Trump in business with the immediate family member of a foreign official. This position came with jurisdiction over her father’s hotels and resorts, including those developments with the Trump Organization. Widodo reportedly even asked Angela to use her new position to help promote new tourist destinations around the country, and she attended meetings with representatives from her father’s company where they discussed the Trump properties.
During Trump’s presidency it was also reported that the Lido City resort would be given a special tax status as a designated “special economic zone,” giving it financial privileges that would extend to the Trump-branded properties there. After years in the works, the tax status was finally granted once Trump left office.
The two Trump-branded properties led to Trump doing business with other countries as well. Construction firms owned or co-owned by the Chinese, Saudi Arabian, and South Korean governments were contracted for work on the properties.
While Trump was in office his son and Trump Organization executive Eric Trump told Fox News, “When my father became commander in chief of this country, we got out of all international business.” Trump pledged that his company would pursue “no new foreign deals” during his presidency and spent four years denying claims that he was profiting from the presidency.
Trump’s decision not to divest from the Trump Organization cast a dark shadow of corruption over his presidency. It is no secret that Trump was struggling financially and in deep debt before he became president. The release of his tax returns show that for Trump, the presidency was a chance to get back in the black. Even if he did donate his presidential salary — a promise that he may have broken in 2020 while also forcing government agencies to spend taxpayer money at his properties — that income is nothing compared to the money he earned from his properties at home and abroad. For his failing hotels, resorts, and golf courses, Trump’s election was a money-making opportunity that created a huge influx of business from foreign governments looking to ingratiate themselves with the commander in chief.