Tracking Trump’s National-Security Conflicts of Interest

A global business empire raises the question: will the next president’s foreign policy serve America’s interests or his own?

Jeff Martin

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A global business empire raises the question: will the next president’s foreign policy serve America’s interests or his own?

A global business empire raises the question: will the next president’s foreign policy serve America’s interests or his own?

Last updated: June 23, 2017 — From close neighbors in Latin America to European allies in the fight against the Islamic State, Donald Trump has international entanglements like no previous commander in chief. Each of the president-elect’s business endeavors, critics say, offers an opportunity for foreign leaders and other actors to unduly influence U.S. policy through emoluments — or potentially, even extortion.

Keeping track of Trump’s national-security conflicts of interest will be no simple matter. Though some potentially profit-inflected decisions have already attracted critical scrutiny, others have surfaced only in the international press, and still others may remain hidden by the Trump Organization’s opaque operating style.

And even though Trump has given his sons control of at least some businesses, the potential conflicts will remain unless and until he creates a blind trust for his assets, legal ethics and national security experts say. The current arrangement falls far short of the mark, for Trump is still receiving reports on his company’s profitability, and can withdraw money or assets or revoke the trustees’ authority at any time. Trump has also gone back on his January promise to track and donate to the U.S. Treasury the portion of his business revenue that comes from foreign governments: in May, lawyers for his global conglomerate declared that it would be “impractical” to follow through on it.

What follows is as complete an accounting of Trump’s overseas financial interests as could be gleaned from open-source reporting, including the financial disclosure form he filed in June 2017 and the one he filed as a presidential candidate. Released by the Office of Government Ethics and Federal Election Commission, these forms are light on details but provide broad estimates of Trump’s assets, income, and debt for the year ending May 2017, and the year before.

We will update this article as information comes to light about Trump’s interests, including projects that are being cancelled or moving ahead.

More on our methodology here.

Click to see Trump’s business interests in:

See also:


Europe, the Middle East, Africa

The U.S. has long maintained an intricate web of bilateral and regional Middle East security partnerships in the interest of regional stability. Its most visible military engagement, the coalition fight against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, is a complicated, multilateral effort that could grow even more complex with Trump’s financial interests.  

Most notably, America’s NATO ally Turkey plays host to a pair of Trump Towers and contributes troops to the coalition fight in Syria. Turkey lets the U.S. and others fly combat strike and surveillance missions against ISIS from its Incirlik Air Base. But Turkey also has long-simmering issues with some separatist Kurdish groups the U.S. has welcomed into the fight for furnishing some of the coalition’s most effective ground forces.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cracked down on Kurdish and opposition groups, including journalists, angering European and American officials and publics, but his military commanders, Pentagon officials privately say, at least remain committed to the fight against ISIS, and Turkey’s cooperation is needed.  

Trump’s rise has also rocked relations with European leaders, who are questioning America’s commitment to defend its NATO allies and nervous over Trump publicly yearning for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friendship.

Here are Trump’s business interests in the Middle East and Europe:

Turkey

  • The Trump Towers Istanbul project is reportedly already being used as a bargaining chip to sway the president-elect’s policy interactions with Turkey. It is not the first time his business and policy have collided there: When Trump proposed banning Muslims from entering the U.S., Erdogan called for Trump’s name to be removed from the towers, threatening the licensing fees that netted Trump $1 million to $5 million on each of his past two filings. Trump has recognized the conflict of interest.

Saudi Arabia

  • Trump’s interest in Saudi Arabia is still largely that – an interest. Ivanka Trump identified it as one of three Middle Eastern countries in which the Trump Organization planned to open hotels. Trump touted his transactions with Saudis on the campaign trail and registered eight companies tied to the country after he started his presidential campaign, all seemingly linked to a potential hotel in Jeddah. But there has yet to be any other progress, and he has reportedly dissolved half of those corporations. That’s backed up by his most recent disclosure: Trump dropped ownership in four of those companies in 2015, and dissolved the other four the week after the 2016 election.
  • Saudi Arabia pledged $100 million to Ivanka’s proposed World Bank Women Entrepreneurs Fund on the same May 2017 weekend that a visiting Trump announced a record-breaking $100-billion arms deal with the Gulf kingdom.

UAE

  • Trump International Golf Club Dubai is an 18-hole golf course that opened in mid-February—with Eric and Donald Jr. in attendance—after its scheduled 2016 opening was pushed back. Trump’s proposed Muslim ban appears to have been forgiven, and his partner has announced a new series of villas overlooking the course. In the first few months it was open before Trump filed his 2017 disclosure, the golf course earned him just under $13,000 in management fees.
  • Trump World Golf Club, a second golf course and club built in another luxury development with the same partner. Expect it to open in 2018.
  • Two accompanying streams of royalties, each worth $1 million to $5 million in the year ending May 2016, and 12 associated organizations identified in the filing. In May, Trump’s two sons met with the organization’s Dubai partner on both resorts to discuss “new ideas.”

Qatar

  • Trump’s interest in Qatar was largely speculative as well. Though it was one of the three Middle Eastern countries in which the Trump Organization said it planned to open hotels, and the 2016 disclosure revealed four associated companies, there hasn’t been any apparent progress. Trump dissolved all four companies the week after he was inaugurated, according to his most recent disclosure.
  • State-owned Qatar Airways has been a tenant in Trump Tower Manhattan for years.

Ireland

Scotland

  • Trump International Golf Links Scotland and the MacLeod House and Lodge in Aberdeen is the golf course whose view and value Trump said would be harmed by offshore wind farms – a fight settled by the United Kingdom’s courts that he rekindled in a meeting with British politician Nigel Farage. Plans to expand the resort are proceeding, the Guardian reported in January. The local council is considering an application from the resort to add a second 18-hole golf course and more housing.  Trump reported $3.8 million in golf-related revenue from the resort on his most recent disclosure.
  • Another golf-and-resort combo, Trump Turnberry, on Scotland’s west coast. The original hotel and prestigious golf course date to the early 1900s; Trump bought the property in 2014 and spent two years renovating it. Was it worth it? That’s still to be determined: Although the May 2016 financial disclosure reports more than $18 million in golf-related revenue from Turnberry and another $14 million on the more recent form, local business filings showed an overall operating loss of about $10 million in 2015. And Reuters questions whether his golf investments are underwater.
  • DT Connect Europe, located in Scotland and owned by another of Trump’s 11 Scottish businesses, owns a Sikorsky S-76B helicopter, which he valued between $1 million and $5 million in the disclosure.  The company also earned between $100,000 and $1 million in rent for unknown holding(s), according to Trump’s latest disclosure.

Georgia

  • After the election, a plan for a Trump Tower in the resort-and-casino town of Batumi was suddenly revived. Announced in 2012, it had fallen dormant when the country’s political situation changed. But Trump still has two companies associated with Batumi and at the start of December 2016, the project’s planned builder said it could move forward as soon as January. Then early in January, Trump and the builder, the Silk Road Group, announced they decided “to formally end the development of Trump Tower, Batumi.” The Silk Road Group said it will build a luxury tower in the town independently. Trump’s two companies related to the project are now dormant, according to his 2017 disclosure.

Azerbaijan

  • To establish a now-abandoned Trump Tower in Baku, Trump partnered with an Azerbaijani businessman and then-government official that may be tied to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. Originally announced in 2014, the planned development stalled and was removed from Trump’s hotel portfolio website after the Azerbaijani economy crashed. Trump nevertheless earned more than $320,000 in management fees for the property in the year leading up to financial disclosure filing. Midway through December, the Azerbaijani Embassy hosted an event at Trump’s hotel in Washington, D.C. The day after, Trump lawyer Alan Garten said the organization was canceling its licensing deal with the Baku property.  Trump reported no income from the dissolved Baku project in his 2017 disclosure.

Others:

  • Germany’s Deutsche Bank holds $300 million of Trump’s debt, with a clause that if he were to default, the bank could go after his other assets. The bank’s efforts to restructure the debt with a different guarantee (to avoid awkward scenarios of collecting from a sitting president of the U.S.) have stalled.
  • TAG Aviation, an aircraft chartering, management, and maintenance company owned by the Trump conglomeration, operates out of airports in Bahrain, France, Switzerland, the U.K., Spain, Portugal, and Togo. It netted the Trump Organization over $7 million over the past year — for leasing Trump’s Boeing 757 to his campaign.


Asia

In the face of a rising China, the U.S. is involved in what Defense Secretary Ash Carter called “a long campaign of firmness” to keep the Asia-Pacific region secure and stable.

The U.S. has multiple allies in the region — via bilateral treaties with Japan, South Korea and the Philippines, plus a multilateral pact with those countries and several others — and stations military personnel in several places. But sustaining the Asia-Pacific’s 60 years of relative stability and American leadership there requires effort as China’s global ambitions grow.

The latest flashpoint is the South China Sea, where the U.S.’s efforts to push back against aggressive Chinese encroachment are complicated by, among other things, Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte, who has been increasingly hostile toward the U.S. and deferential toward China.

The Trump Organization has interests in the Philippines and several other countries:

Philippines

  • Trump Tower Manila is an unabashedly luxurious project set to open next year. Trump’s partner on the project, Jose E. B. Antonio, was named as a special envoy to the U.S. before the election. Trump received up to $5 million in royalties from the project in each of the last two years reported on his disclosures, funneled through one of his two Trump Marks Philippines corporations.

China

  • Much of Trump’s interests in China are speculative. Trump Organization officials have previously said they have a team in Shanghai and are looking to establish hotels and in Shenzhen and Beijing. Trump’s disclosure notes nine companies associated with the country, but so far he hasn’t cracked the Chinese market. Post-election, any plans to expand into China are “pretty much off,” Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger said at an investment summit in late January. 
  • But other business prospects might still be viable: After a protracted legal battle, China granted Trump a 10-year trademark for Trump-branded construction services on Feb. 14. Trump received preliminary approval for at least 38 other (more recently filed) trademarks in the country several weeks later. And Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter-cum-advisor, had three of her brand’s trademarks approved by the Chinese government on the same day she dined with the country’s president.
  • China’s largest state-owned bank pays the Trump Organization about $2 million a year to rent office space in Manhattan’s Trump Tower. The bank, which was the building’s largest tenant as of a few years ago, can renegotiate its lease in 2019—before Trump’s four-year term is over.
  • TAG Aviation, Trump’s aircraft-services company has a Hong Kong-based subsidiary that serves the Asian market.

India

  • Trump Towers Pune is a pair of towers several hours from Mumbai. A pair of state and local investigations into the building have yet to slow down rentals nor lower the price of apartments that sell for 35 percent above their nearby peers. The Trump Organization ended “exploratory talks” for a second development in Pune, Trump lawyer Alan Garten said in early January. Trump has not reported any income from the four companies he has associated with the Pune towers on either of his last two financial disclosure forms.
  • Trump Tower Mumbai, Trump’s second attempt to get into the Mumbai market, generated $1 million to $5 million in license fees, according to the May 2016 disclosure. On the following year’s form, the royalties were only $100,000 to $1 million. On target to be completed by 2019, the building is about 60 percent sold, its developer said in April.
  • In the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon, a fledgling deal with Indian developer Ireo to build a Trump tower had already netted between $100,000 and $1 million in royalties in the year ending May 2016, and again in the time period covered under the 2017 disclosure.
  • And in Kolkata, another prospective Trump tower in partnership with Unimark Group is reportedly in the design-review phase. It, too, generated $100,000 to $1 million in royalties in the time period covered under the 2017 disclosure. 
  • 16 other related corporations and associations.

South Korea

  • Trump World Seoul, the first development to which Trump licensed his brand.
  • Two associated companies, including a joint-venture with the partner who built the condo properties.

Indonesia

  • A planned Trump International Hotel and Tower Bali, announced last year and slated for completion in 2018 is a 100-hectare resort that would be Trump’s first hotel in Asia.
  • A second deal is with the same partner from the Bali project to build Trump International Hotel and Tower Lido in West Java, about 100 kilometers south of Jakarta. It would include the resort as well as residences and a golf course.
  • Each deal netted Trump between $1 and $5 million in royalties, plus $83,333 in management fees in the year ending May 2016. The following year, Trump reported $190,476 in management fees for each hotel, but no royalties. Between the two projects, Trump has 16 companies associated with Indonesia. Trump spokeswoman Amanda Miller told the New York Times at the end of 2016 that the two projects “will proceed as planned.”


The Americas

Though the region is not without its security issues, Latin America and the Caribbean have historically sat squarely within the U.S.’s sphere of influence. The U.S. maintains a multilateral military treaty with large swaths of Latin America and the Caribbean, and Canada is a member of NATO.

  

But in recent years, China and Russia have started testing the waters, and may see Trump’s election as an opportunity to move in further.

Trump’s financial interests that could complicate or undermine his dealings with the region include:

Canada:

Panama

  • Trump Ocean Club International Hotel and Tower Panama and eight associated corporations. In the period covered under Trump’s 2017 disclosure, the property brought in between $100,000 and $1 million in royalties, plus over another $800,000 in management fees. The royalties were a bit more lucrative the year before, generating between $1 million and $5 million, according to the May 2016 form.
  • Former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who helped Trump launch the property and sat the board of a bank that managed funds for the Ocean Club, now faces extradition from the U.S. after fleeing multiple corruption charges.

Brazil

Argentina

  • The long-stalled Trump Tower Buenos Aires, which showed signs of life after a phone call between Trump and Argentine president Mauricio Macri. Though both parties refuted a report saying the two discussed the property, and the building’s permitting process isn’t finished, Trump’s partner on the project announced three days after the phone call that construction would start in 2017. In January, an unnamed spokeswoman said Trump would not build the Buenos Aires tower.

Uruguay

  • Trump Tower Punta del Este, which delivered between $100,000 and $1 million in royalties in the year ending May 2016, via one of the two associated corporations Trump maintains in the country.

United States

  • Trump’s business empire is global in nature, but at home domestically. In the U.S., the Trump organization maintains multiple hotels, golf courses, and other properties — including Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida resort — and has at least $250 million in unsold real estate whose sales could lead to conflicts of interest with individuals or foreign state-owned entities. It will be difficult to tell if such a conflict arises, because about 70 percent of Trump properties bought over the last year were purchased through limited liability corporations designed to obscure owners’ identities.
  • Many foreigners have bought or invested in Trump’s properties (see: this, this or this, for example). This is by no means unusual in the world of luxury real estate. So we’ll focus only on the ties between Trump’s U.S. businesses and foreign governments. For example, China’s largest state-owned bank and Qatar’s state-owned airline are both tenants in Trump Tower Manhattan.

Caribbean Islands

  • The Trump Organization is re-engaging in a deal, dormant since the 2008 financial crisis, to develop beachfront estates in the Dominican Republic. Less than a month after Trump promised “no new foreign deals,” Trump’s son Eric visited the land, which is valued between $1 million and $5 million in the disclosure. The Trump Organization’s general counsel, Alan Garten, told the AP the deal was never dead—though nothing has been built in a decade and Trump’s organization had previously sued its local partners.
  • Le Chateau des Palmiers, a residential rental property on St. Martin, generated between $100,000 and $1 million in rent payments over each of the preceding years. It went on the market in April for a reported $28 million — about $10 million more than what Trump likely paid for the property in 2013.
  • Land and real estate investments on the tiny Grenadine island of Canouan, where Trump launched a development of a golf course and accompanying villas in 2004. Though the casino he also managed there has since gone bankrupt, the golf course has been rebranded and the villas didn’t work out, he still had four active corporations linked to the island at the time of the filing. One of them netted $3 million in land sales – possibly the last of his involvement with the islandTrump didn’t report any income or assets on the island on his more recent filing.
  • DJ Aerospace Bermuda Ltd, a perhaps-inactive corporation that is wholly owned by the president-elect. At least until 2011, Trump had registered a Boeing 727 on the island. He has since sold that plane.

Pending U.S. Litigation

There are several lawsuits filed in U.S. courts against President Trump regarding conflicts of interest between his presidency and ongoing business ties:

  • Maryland and the District of Columbia sued the president in June. The suit, filed jointly by Maryland and D.C.’s attorneys general, alleges Trump has violated constitutional anti-corruption clauses by “receiving millions of dollars in payments, benefits, and other valuable consideration from foreign governments.”
  • Almost 200 Democratic members of Congress also sued Trump in June with a complaint similar to D.C. and Maryland’s.  
  • In March, a D.C. restaurant sued Trump, saying his D.C. hotel constitutes unfair competition.
  • In January, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a D.C.-based watchdog group, filed suit against Trump for emoluments violations. Their suit, which some legal observers say lacks standing, was joined by a restaurant association and an event booker in April.

Other Resources

This article focuses on Trump’s international properties and domestic projects with any ties to foreign governments. For more information on other aspects of the president’s business empire, here are more resources, including:

Methodology Notes:

Foreign business interests were identified using the June 2017 financial disclosure, May financial disclosure, public statements from Trump or his children, and other open-source data. The disclosure was not reviewed by regulators; more Trump-related companies and investments may exist.

Each interest is listed in the region where it does or expects to do its primary business, not where it may be registered or headquartered. As an example, DT Marks Worli LLC was incorporated in Delaware in 2013 and is located in New York, according to the filing, but is licensing the Trump name to a developer building a Trump Tower in the Worli neighborhood in Mumbai. As such, it’s included here as an interest in India.

Finally, the financial disclosure lists more than 500 corporations and associations in which Trump held positions, most often as a director or president of the group. A number of these hint at the Trump Organization’s ambitions to expand its international brand, but weren’t linked to any assets or income. If no ongoing operations or public statements from Trump or his organization could be found for these companies, they were not included here. An LLC and a corporation, both sporting the name Trump Marks South Africa, are two such examples.

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