Trump Organization says it donated foreign government profits, but won’t release any details

Ethics watchdog described the announcement as "wholly inadequate."

Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. CREDIT: Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images
Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C. CREDIT: Gabriella Demczuk/Getty Images

The Trump Organization said Monday it has donated profits earned from foreign government spending at the company’s hotels last year to the U.S. Treasury Department, but both the company and the federal agency have refused to disclose details about the transactions, according to the Associated Press.

The Trump Organization, the real estate empire that President Donald Trump still controls, donated the profits last Thursday, the company’s executive vice president and chief compliance counsel, George Sorial, told The Washington Post.  

“Although not a legal requirement, this voluntary donation fulfills our pledge to donate profits from foreign government patronage at our hotels and similar business during President Trump’s term in office,” Sorial told the Post.

But details about who those foreign customers are, what Trump hotels profited, and the amount of those profits remain a mystery. It’s an issue that’s left ethics and watchdog organizations concerned with the lack of transparency surrounding the president’s business dealings.

Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics [CREW] in Washington, D.C. released a statement Monday describing the Trump Organization’s announcement as “wholly inadequate” because of the lack of details, including how the profits were calculated. The watchdog organization also pointed out that the donation includes only hotels, not all of Trump’s businesses, and includes only events, but fails to track payments for hotel rooms and meals.

“There is no independent oversight or accountability; we’re being asked to take their word for it,” executive director Noah Bookbinder said in the CREW statement. “Most importantly, even if they had given every dime they made from foreign governments to the Treasury, the taking of those payments would still be a problem under the Constitution.”  

Sorial told Forbes reporter Dan Alexander in a statement that the donation, for profits earned from January 20, 2017 to December 31, 2017, was calculated “in accordance with our policy and the Uniform System of Accounts for the Lodging Industry.”

A Treasury Department spokesperson confirmed to the Associated Press and Forbes that the agency had received the check from the Trump Organization, but did not provide further details.  

Robert Weissman, president of the watchdog group Public Citizen, told the Associated Press that he was not surprised about the lack of disclosure given that the Trump’s family businesses have “a penchant for secrecy and a readiness to violate their promises.”

“Did they pay with Monopoly money? If the Trump Organization won’t say how much they paid, let alone how they calculated it at each property, why in the world should we believe they actually have delivered on their promise?” said Weissman.

Last month, Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives Oversight Committee called on the committee’s Republican chairman to subpoena the Trump Organization for documents that could shed light on the foreign government payments the Trump Organization received last year.  

In their letter, Democrats sought answers to questions similar to those being asked by watchdog organizations, including: the process by which payments from foreign governments or foreign government-owned entities are identified, as well as the process or formula by which the profits from such payments are calculated.

“Over the past year, President Trump and his attorneys have stalled virtually any credible oversight,” the Democrats wrote in the letter. “And unfortunately our Committee has done nothing to push back on these efforts, press for answers to these questions, or obtain documents that would assist our efforts to carry out our duties under the Constitution to act as an independent check on the President and the Executive Branch.”