President Donald Trump is making hundreds of millions from foreign business dealings during his time in the White House, an OpenSecrets analysis of personal financial disclosures found.
Trump earned more than $200 million in income from his interests in foreign countries since 2016 and reported nearly $95 million of that income from foreign business dealings in his two most recent financial disclosures on file with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, according to OpenSecrets analysis of data from personal financial disclosures.
Trump’s financial disclosures, filed as recently as July 2020, show Trump reported earning over $47 million from foreign business interests in 2019. The president continued to hold at least $73 million and up to $150 million in foreign assets through a revocable trust at the end of 2019, evidence suggesting Trump has continued to profit from foreign business interests to an even greater extent than The New York Times’ review of Trump’s tax returns exposed.
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The New York Times’ reporting shed new light on Trump’s taxes and business dealings during his time at the White House, revealing an unprecedented level of foreign business entanglements for a sitting U.S. president. Trump reportedly earned at least $73 million in 2017 and 2018 from his properties abroad, according to the review of Trump’s tax returns. But Trump’s refusal to release his actual tax returns leaves gaps in disclosure, and financial disclosures analyzed by OpenSecrets reveal that Trump continued to profit from foreign business interests even more than the Times reporting shows.
Trump is the first president since the Watergate Era who failed to publicly release his tax returns. And because personal financial disclosures report most income in ranges, details about Trump’s exact profits are hidden from the American public. This leaves voters in the dark about potential financial entanglements with foreign interests even as the president shapes foreign policy.
Tax returns provide a peek at Trump’s reported profits while personal financial disclosures can help identify potential conflicts of interest by tracking aspects of Trump’s finances such as income and assets.
Trump-branded properties charged the federal government at least $1.1 million since Trump took office with even more flowing in from foreign government officials and special interests. But Trump paid just $750 in federal income taxes each year during his first two years in office. While the Trump Organization pledged to contribute all profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, it reported giving just $105,000 last year. But Trump is paying hefty taxes to foreign governments: he and his companies reportedly paid $145,400 in taxes to India and $156,824 to the Philippines.
The comparably small sums contributed to Treasury raise questions about what is and isn’t included in the Trump Organization’s foreign profit contributions since details of the calculations have been hidden from the American public. Saudi Arabia’s government alone reportedly spent more at Trump International Hotel in the four months after Trump won the 2016 election than the entire Trump Organization donated to cover foreign profits any year of his presidency.
Some of Trump’s most seemingly lucrative properties have also been his biggest losers. Trump’s businesses in both Ireland and Scotland are losing money but they generated the most income for Trump personally, according to his financial disclosures.
Trump’s business deals in Scotland raked in more money than businesses in any other country with more than $119 million in reported income since 2016. Trump’s businesses in Ireland made him more than $54 million during that time.
Despite the businesses lining Trump’s own pockets, the Trump Organization recently applied for bailout money from Scotland and Ireland to cover expenses due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The New York Times review of Trump’s tax returns found that a licensing deal in the Philippines earned at least $3 million during his first two years in office. Trump’s Philippine business dealings earned him at least another $2 million in 2019, according to his most recent personal financial disclosure, a higher range than any other year since at least 2016.
Since 2016, Trump made more than $2.6 million from business dealings in India with at least $1.1 million coming from business in the country during his first year as president. Since the personal financial disclosures show some amounts in ranges, this means Trump’s personal income from India since 2016 could be as high as $17.1 million.
While income from some of Trump’s foreign business assets has tapered off with each passing year of his presidency, others have done the opposite.
Personal financial disclosures show Trump making more than $335,000 from business in the United Arab Emirates in 2019, a higher amount than any of the three prior years. Trump’s UAE golf club was promoted by foreign agents in materials distributed for the Dubai Department of Tourism that same year. Foreign interests from the UAE have revved up lobbying spending during the Trump administration. They spent more than $81 million on foreign influence operations targeting the U.S. since 2016 and around $25 million last year alone.
Trump’s personal income from business interests in Turkey topped $1.3 million since 2016 and may have been as high as $8 million. Turkish businessman Mehmet Ali Yalcindag helped negotiate the licensing deal for Trump’s properties in Turkey. Yalcindag has since lobbied the Trump administration on U.S. policy toward Turkey and is chairman of the Turkey-US Business Council, which has spent more than $1.6 millon on foreign lobbying and influence operations targeting the U.S. since 2018. Since Trump took office the Turkish government-linked council started holding its annual conference at Trump International Hotel, just blocks from the White House in Washington, D.C.
Turkey isn’t the only country where Trump’s foreign financial entanglements are not limited to his business interests overseas. Representatives from at least 33 foreign governments have visited Trump’s D.C. hotel since Trump was elected president, according to 1100 Pennsylvania.
Trump’s acceptance of that business and accompanying payments has raised questions among some constitutional scholars and ethics experts since the Constitution’s emoluments clauses bar the president from accepting payments from a foreign state without approval from Congress. Three petitions involving challenges to Trump’s business activities under the emoluments clauses are pending before the U.S. Supreme Court, which has a seat left open by the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg that Trump is rushing to fill with nominee Amy Coney Barrett before Election Day.
Researcher Alex Baumgart contributed to this report.