Remember when President Trump stepped down from his multibillion-dollar real estate and lifestyle conglomerate once he was sworn in, ceding control to his two sons and even appointing ethics advisers just in case?
Yeah, about that.
Turns out, Trump can withdraw funds from any of the 400 businesses that make up his namesake Trump Organization at any time without any sort of disclosure, according to a change made to a trust document in February, ProPublica has found.
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An attorney with the Trump Organization confirmed that Trump has been allowed to withdraw funds since his inauguration. But a clause, added in a Feb. 10 version of a trust certification, says trustees “shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request.”
Essentially, Trump can withdraw profits from the trust without publicly disclosing when – or how much – because the Trump Organization is a privately held company.
While all sources of income must be reported to the IRS, including from a trust, the only way the public would know how much he’s taking is if Trump released a tax return. And that, famously, has not happened yet.
Watchdog groups and ethics experts derided Trump for refusing to divest from his business empire, which they say can prevent possible conflicts of interest.
According to ProPublica, taking profits regularly could give the president a glimpse into the financial health of his businesses, even though the trust document explicitly states “trustees shall not provide any report to Donald J. Trump on the holdings and sources of income of the Trust.”
Meanwhile, there has been much chatter about the potential for a Trump impeachment for his financial conflicts of interest. In February, Congressman Keith Ellison accused the president of violating the Emoluments Clause – a portion of the U.S. Constitution that states no member of government can accept payments or gifts from a foreign government without the consent of Congress.
Ellison, a Democrat from Minnesota, said the president is in violation of the law the moment foreign dignitaries check into his Washington, D.C., hotel.