In January, Donald Trump and his lawyer Sheri Dillon held a press conference at which they laid out a plan for how the president would distance himself from his businesses. Among the steps they presented was a means to address concerns that foreign governments and leaders may attempt to curry favor with the president by staying at the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. This, ethics experts said, would violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause, which states that government officials cannot “accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” As such, Dillon announced, the Trump Organization will “voluntarily donate all profits from foreign government payments to his hotels to the United States Treasury.”
As my colleague Russell Berman wrote on Wednesday, a document sent from the Trump Organization to Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, demonstrates that the company isn’t doing the legwork required to stand by that pledge. The nine-page document states that the Trump Organization does not “attempt to identify individual travelers who have not specifically identified themselves as being a representative of a foreign government agency.” Doing so, the Trump Organization says, “is impractical in the service industry and putting forth a policy that requires all guests to identify themselves would impede upon personal privacy and diminish the guest experience of our brand.” The company appears to effectively delegate identifying foreign payments—at least, the pamphlet says, those that aren’t “direct billings from the Property to a foreign government”—to the foreign governments themselves.