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Dissecting Trump’s recent financial disclosure

June 18, 2017 at 5:22 PM EDT
The White House released on Friday a portfolio of President Donald Trump’s financial holdings. It shows that the Trump Organization earned $529 million dollars over 15 months, including the first three of Trump’s presidency. Amy Brittain of the Washington Post’s investigative team joins Hari Sreenivasan to describe why Trump’s financial situation as president is unprecedented.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: The voluntary financial disclosure form released Friday shows the Trump Organization and Mr. Trump himself earned $529 million in total revenue and income from early 2016 through his first three months as president. Among the highlights, the president says his assets are worth at least $1.4 billion and that he’s retained ownership of most of them. The president’s Florida golf club, Mar-a-Lago, made $37.2 million from January 2016 through this spring, up from $29.8 million the year before.

Keep in mind, following Mr. Trump’s election, Mar-a-Lago doubled its initiation fee to $200,000. The Trump Organization earned $20 million in income related to its Washington, D.C. hotel that opened last October. Overseas, for the first time, Trump reported $100,000 income from the Trump Tower in Kolkata, India. He also reported $5 million from his new hotel-and-condominium tower in Vancouver, Canada.

For more analysis of these financial revelations, I’m joined by “Washington Post” reporter Amy Brittain.

So, what do we learn from this?

AMY BRITTAIN, WASHINGTON POST: I mean, I think the big takeaway in looking at the form is that this is like truly an unprecedented situation with the president, choosing to hold on to this vast wealth, even as he’s entered the office of the White House. So, if you look at his form and the main change is that he has moved the majority of his business into a trust, which is controlled by his sons, Don Jr. and Eric. But that trust has kind of come under criticism in recent months because it’s been revealed that President Trump can have access to that trust at any time.

SREENIVASAN: So, in the financial disclosure form, are we seeing changes from what was filed before?

BRITTAIN: Well, immediately, you know, critics are looking at the forms to say, hey, is he profiting off of the office of the presidency, right? So, you can look at the profits from Mar-a-Lago, from his different hotels around the world and you can certainly see an increase in the revenue that’s brought in at Mar-a-Lago. I think the most telling form to compare that to is the one that he filed in 2015, which was at the beginning of his candidacy. And in that form, he reported about $15 million in revenue from Mar-a-Lago from the proceeding period, and now, he’s reporting more than $37 million.

SREENIVASAN: There was also reporting a little earlier this week about the type of influence that may or may not exist, say, for example, some of the people that have been buying his condominiums have been buying them through LLCs and it’s actually difficult for anyone to see who’s purchasing, whether it’s an individual, whether it’s a foreign government.

BRITTAIN: Definitely. I mean, exceedingly difficult to track the underlying buyers of properties that are purchased through LLCs, and that’s one of the limitations of this form. You know, this is not the same as looking at a tax release.

SREENIVASAN: We also have Democrats, Democratic attorney generals in Maryland, D.C., nearly 200 other Democratic members and the Citizens of Responsibility in Ethics in Washington are all suing Trump because they still think that there is a violation of the emoluments clause, saying that his businesses and how he owns them still violates the Constitution.

BRITTAIN: Yes. I mean, the hotel in D.C. has become the center of this controversy. And you can look at it as new form and you can see that that hotel has brought in about $20 million since its opening in October. What the attorney general’s lawsuit last week, they were alleging that, look, they are calling there an unprecedented constitutional violation and the scope of it, because they are saying that there is no meaningful divide between his business empire and the office of the presidency.

SREENIVASAN: Is there something that the White House has said after this release of information? This is something that’s going to happen every quarter. Have they made comments on the way to characterize the information that the Office of Government Ethics just released?

BRITTAIN: Well, I mean, I think they are quick to say that look, this is voluntary. He’s made an effort to put this out in the first year of his presidency, you know, they are saying that this is an effort that he did not necessarily have to do this year, he could have waited until the next year if he wanted to release his financial statement.

SREENIVASAN: Amy Brittain of “The Washington Post”, thanks so much for joining us.

BRITTAIN: Thank you for having me.

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