Tracking Trump’s National-Security Conflicts of Interest

By Caroline Houck

December 17, 2016

Last updated: May 16, 2018 — 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'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 is 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. Other potential conflicts have emerged from the circle of advisors and extended family orbiting the White House, including Trump’s eldest son, his daughter, and his son-in-law Jared Kushner.

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; the president continues to receive reports on his company’s profitability, and can withdraw money or assets or revoke the trustees’ authority at any time. Shortly after taking office, Trump vowed to donate to the U.S. Treasury the portion of his business revenue that comes from foreign governments, a promise his lawyers quickly walked back. Still, in February, the Trump Organization cut the the U.S. government a $151,470 check, providing no details about who paid how much and for what.

Foreign governments have taken notice. A number of them have found ways to do favors for Trump’s projects in their countries. At least 11 foreign governments paid Trump-owned entities during his first year in office.

What follows is an accounting of Trump’s overseas financial interests, gleaned from open-source reporting, including the financial disclosure forms he filed as a presidential candidate in May 2016 and as president in June 2017. 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. Trump filed his 2018 disclosure on May 15; it could take several weeks for details to be made public.

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, where they  furnish some of the coalition’s most effective ground forces.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has cracked down on Kurdish and opposition groups, angering European and American officials and publics. But Pentagon officials privately say that Erdoğan’s military commanders, at least, remain committed to the fight against ISIS, and in any case, 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’s public yearning for Russian President Vladimir Putin’s friendship.

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


Saudi Arabia










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:




South Korea


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:






United States

Caribbean Islands

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.Others have been dismissed for lack of standing.

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.

By Caroline Houck // Caroline Houck is a staff correspondent at Defense One. She previously was an Atlantic Media fellow.

December 17, 2016