February 12, 2020
President Trump’s refusal to divest from his businesses after taking office has resulted in obvious and unprecedented conflicts of interest. While his failed attempt to host this year’s G-7 conference at his Doral resort was perhaps the most conspicuous and audacious example of his administration taking an official action to benefit a business he still owns and profits from, it is far from the only instance. Indeed, research by CREW found 19 policies or official actions taken by the Trump administration that may benefit President Trump’s personal finances and private businesses.
These span the government, ranging from environmental regulations that impact Trump’s golf courses to work visas that allow his businesses to hire cheaper seasonal workers—and so on, to tax cuts that will likely save him millions and even major military decisions that protect his foreign businesses. Some of these beneficial policies and actions have been highly publicized, while others have flown beneath the radar.
Some examples in the list show how routine government actions place government officials in the position of making consequential decisions that personally impact their boss, the president of the United States. One such instance was in 2018, when the Trump Organization sold real estate estimated to be worth more than $35 million. More than half of what he netted in those sales reportedly came from a federally subsidized housing complex in Brooklyn—the sale of which Trump’s own Department of Housing and Urban Development had to approve. President Trump personally brought in an estimated $20 million as a result of the decision in his favor.
Other instances could carry major consequences for U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. In early October, for example, the White House announced its decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Northern Syria after a phone call with Turkey’s president Erdogan, paving the way for a Turkish military incursion. This decision sparked outrage and criticism from both Republicans and Democrats. Critics immediately pointed to the financial relationship between Trump and Turkey. Trump licenses his brand to two towers in Istanbul and is financially connected to the powerful Dogan family in Turkey. Trump’s financial ties to the country called into question the motivation behind his military decision.
Then there are more obscure examples, like in April 2017, when President Trump signed a bill that repealed an OSHA recordkeeping rule and reduced how long employers could be held responsible for workplace injuries and illnesses. One of the industries that would be most impacted by this is the construction industry, due to the dangerous conditions and hazards of the job. President Trump has been cited in the past for OSHA safety violations, and, in 2008, a Trump Organization contractor was fined after a worker died working on a Trump-brand project.
Around the time of the OSHA repeal, Trump’s EPA reversed a ban on a pesticide that experts have linked to serious brain development problems in children. The pesticide, chlorpyrifos, is known for its use in farming, but it is also routinely used on golf courses, of which the president owns more than a dozen.
Last spring, while Trump was threatening to shut down the U.S.-Mexico border, the Departments of Labor and Homeland Security nearly doubled the number of H-2B temporary worker visas they planned to grant that year. The visas allow foreign workers to legally enter the United States to work at businesses that regularly employ seasonal workers, like the hotels and resorts that make up a large portion of President Trump’s financial portfolio. The Trump Organization has requested 1,692 foreign work visas between 2001 and 2018 for a number of his businesses, including Mar-a-Lago, the Trump National Golf Club in New York, and Trump Vineyard Estates.
President Trump’s failure to divest from his businesses prior to taking office and all of these federal actions leaves the public to question whether personal profit may be playing into or even guiding the Trump administration’s decision-making. This is certainly true when it comes to the policies and decisions identified in the list, and to future administration decisions going forward. View the full list of these policies by clicking here, and if you see anything we missed, please send us a tip.