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Trump's First 100 Days: Foreign Interests

Apr 24, 2017
Originally published on April 24, 2017 6:08 am
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RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

As President Trump nears 100 days in office, ethics watchdogs have renewed calls for him to divest from his business interests. Here's NPR's Jackie Northam.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: On Inauguration Day, Donald Trump placed his hand on a Bible and promised to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: I, Donald John Trump, do solemnly swear...

NORTHAM: At the time, many ethics experts waited to see if Trump would divest himself from his multibillion-dollar business interests.

ZEPHYR TEACHOUT: And he didn't do it. So immediately upon becoming president, we filed a lawsuit to get him to stop violating the Constitution.

NORTHAM: Zephyr Teachout, an associate law professor at Fordham University, is part of the suit against Trump. It says that the president is violating the Emoluments Clause, a provision in the Constitution which prevents government officials from accepting gifts, benefits and the like from foreign leaders. But Teachout says Trump's businesses are generating profits from foreign governments, especially his hotels and resorts.

TEACHOUT: Diplomats from foreign governments and their agents are staying in Trump hotels, like the Trump Hotel in D.C. And that's money from foreign governments going into our president's pocket while he is making decisions that affect those countries.

NORTHAM: Trump promised any profits from foreign governments will be donated to the U.S. Treasury, most likely at the end of the year. And he placed ownership of his business in a revokable trust. But that won't stop more Trump Hotels from springing up.

On a beautiful spring morning, crowds mill about Dupont Circle, a lively tourist area in the heart of Washington, D.C. - and where Trump officials have been looking to open up a new hotel. It's part of a massive expansion of Trump Hotels across the U.S. Meanwhile, Trump's sons Eric and Donald Jr. have also been traveling regularly overseas to open hotels and golf courses and check out dormant and current resort projects. Last week, Eric Trump was in Doonbeg, Ireland, where the Trump organization is trying to build a wall around its five-star golf resort. Ellie Donnelly is with the Irish Independent newspaper.

ELLIE DONNELLY: It's a beautiful, peaceful environment. But the sea is eroding to the area where the golf course is. And what the Trump resort is arguing is that if we don't build this wall to protect the golf course, then it will become destroyed.

NORTHAM: A county council will decide about the wall. A well-timed visit by the U.S. president's son could be seen as helping sway any decision. This blending of business and the presidency worries many ethics experts because it could include trade policies and security issues. Take China, for example. Trump fought a decade-long legal battle to register trademarks in China. The first one was finally granted one month after Trump's inauguration. Peter Riebling, a trademark lawyer, says soon after, 38 other trademarks for everything from hotels to spas were also granted.

PETER RIEBLING: Those applications just sailed through. And - oddly, they were all granted at the same time, all at once. That is very unusual, not just in China but anywhere really.

NORTHAM: Riebling says getting trademark approvals in a market like China is huge.

RIEBLING: If a foreign government is granting that to the Trump Organization - or to anyone else - that would certainly be an economic benefit to the organization.

NORTHAM: Ties between the U.S. and China have apparently warmed during Trump's first 100 days in office. Trump even reversed his claim that China is a currency manipulator. Jackie Northam, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF GOGO PENGUIN'S "SMARRA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.