Politics

Facing conflict-of-interest questions, Trump hands control of hotel empire to his son

Donald Trump with golf legend Arnold Palmer and sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. at Trump National Doral Course on March 4, 2015.
Donald Trump with golf legend Arnold Palmer and sons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. at Trump National Doral Course on March 4, 2015. MIAMI HERALD STAFF

President Donald Trump is handing control of many of his Florida companies — including his family hotel business — to his two adult sons as liberal watchdogs raise questions about payments from foreign governments to Trump hotels.

The move is a sign that Trump is separating himself from the management of his sprawling financial holdings, something his attorney had pledged he would do by Jan. 20.

While Trump is relinquishing day-to-day management of his companies, he has said he will maintain ownership.

The first step: A document filed Monday with the Florida Secretary of State shows Eric Trump is now president of Trump International Hotels Management. A previous document for the corporation, filed in March, listed Donald Trump as president.

Among Trump’s hotel properties are a golf course and resort in Doral and a recently opened hotel in Washington, D.C., as well as locations in New York, Canada, Panama and Scotland, according to the company’s website.

Also Monday, investigative news outlet ProPublica reported that Trump has stepped down from at least 13 other Florida companies he controls, including one that runs his beloved Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach County.

Donald Trump Jr. is now listed as the president of Mar-a-Lago.

A watchdog group, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington D.C., filed a suit Monday against Trump claiming he is violating the Constitution by receiving payments from foreign governments at his hotels. Trump told reporters the suit is “without merit,” according to CNBC.

Stepping back

At a press conference earlier this month, Trump attorney Sheri Dillon said the president would “design a structure for his business empire that will completely isolate him from the management” of his company, adding that selling his ownership stake would be difficult and lead to other problems.

President Trump resigned from all positions of management and authority with The Trump Organization and its affiliates.

Amanda Miller, Trump Organization spokeswoman

Trump Organization spokeswoman Amanda Miller sent the Miami Herald a statement about the recent changes:

“Consistent with the plan outlined at the January 11, 2017, press conference, on January 19, 2017, President Trump resigned from all positions of management and authority with The Trump Organization and its affiliates. President Trump also transferred title, management and authority of those companies to a trust, or subsidiaries thereof, collectively managed by his children, Don and Eric, and longtime executive and chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg.”

The president of the United States is exempt from the primary conflict-of-interest provision in federal law, PolitiFact found. But Trump’s business activities have still raised red flags for watchdogs concerned about how his financial entanglements could interfere with presidential duties. It’s not clear if presidents are bound by the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution, which bans government employees from accepting compensation from foreign governments, and no court has weighed in.

The change in management of Trump’s hotel company, first reported on Twitter by NPR White House correspondent Tamara Keith, is unlikely to quiet the storm from political opponents.

In financial disclosure forms filed as part of his presidential bid, Trump is listed as the 99.9 percent owner of Trump International Hotels Management.

Big bucks

The forms also provide a rough estimate of the hotel company’s worth, pegging its value at above $50 million and reporting its annual income as nearly $3.4 million in management fees.

Trump previously handed control of his international real estate development, property management and licensing company to Eric and Donald Jr., according to the Associated Press.

The president has stated that he does not have to give up control of his businesses. Even so, he said, he will do so in order to concentrate on his presidential duties.

“I have a no conflict of interest provision as president,” Trump said. “I understand they don’t want presidents getting tangled up in minutia; they want a president to run the country. So I could actually run my business, I could actually run my business and run government at the same time.”

One member of Trump’s family is expected to play a key role in the new administration: Jared Kushner, his son-in-law, has been named a senior White House adviser.

Miami Herald staff writer Patricia Mazzei contributed to this report.

Amy Sherman: @AmySherman1

Nicholas Nehamas: 305-376-3745, @NickNehamas

  Comments