Trump’s business isn’t keeping the receipts from foreign governments

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The president vowed to donate all profits from foreign governments to the Treasury. But he can’t donate them if no one can find them.

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., ranking member on the House Oversight Committee, speaks to reporters during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, April 27, 2017. CREDIT: AP Photo/ Manuel Balce Ceneta

One month ago, the House Oversight Committee asked the Trump Organization to provide documents related to payments it had received from foreign governments — and outline a plan for donating profits to the U.S. Treasury Department, as President Donald Trump vowed he would. Now it appears that Trump’s business empire hasn’t been keeping track of those payments, making compliance with the president’s promise all but impossible.

NBC obtained a Trump Organization pamphlet that says the business will not “attempt to identify individual travelers who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government entity.” Instead, the Trump Organization puts the onus on foreign governments to make those disclosures, voluntarily and without prompting.

The Trump Organization forwarded this pamphlet to members of the House Oversight Committee in response to their request for more information. The committee’s ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), replied in a letter Wednesday that he was disappointed by this “meager” response.

Addressing Trump Organization executive vice president and chief compliance officer George Sorial, Cummings noted that the Trump Organization had failed to answer most of the questions asked by the committee or provide “the vast majority of documents we requested in our letter.”

“Instead, you provided only a single document — a glossy, eight-page pamphlet that contains a total of 40 sentences — and an email forwarding this pamphlet to various Trump Organization entities,” according to Cummings’ letter. “This pamphlet raises grave concerns about the President’s refusal to comply with the Constitution merely because he believes it is ‘impractical’ and could ‘diminish the guest experience of our brand.’”

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An attorney for President Donald Trump said in January, shortly before his inauguration, that he would “voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments made to his hotel to the United States Treasury” in order to comply with the Constitution’s ban on presidents accepting gifts from foreign leaders. The April 21 document request sent by Cummings and House Oversight Committee chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) was an attempt to establish whether or not Trump was true to his word.

The Trump Organization’s reply seems to indicate that neither the president nor his businesses have been conducting the basic due diligence that keeping his promise would require.

Government watchdog organization CREW said in a statement that the Trump Organization’s record keeping was “wholly inadequate.”

“The best way to address President Trump’s constitutional violations is complete divestment from all his businesses,” said CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder. “This effort to address the problem is not a serious one.”

The Trump Organization’s intentionally lax bookkeeping practices are particularly striking given that scrutiny of Trump’s businesses has become intertwined with the investigation into his associates’ alleged collaboration with Russian intelligence officials. Investigators into the collusion allegations are now looking for financial ties between Trump and the Kremlin; last week, the Wall Street Journal reported that a state-owned Russian bank had financed an $850 million deal with a Trump business partner.

“Complying with the United States Constitution is not an optional exercise, but a requirement for serving as our nation’s President,” wrote Cummings.

Trump’s business isn’t keeping the receipts from foreign governments was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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