Trump’s Panama debacle comes to an embarrassing close

After two weeks of riot police and water shortages, the Trump Organization appears on the outs in Panama.

After two weeks of tensions, Trump appears to have lost out in Panama. CREDIT: GETTY / RODRIGO ARANGUA
After two weeks of tensions, Trump appears to have lost out in Panama. CREDIT: GETTY / RODRIGO ARANGUA

The property President Donald Trump once referred to as his daughter Ivanka Trump’s “baby” appears to no longer be part of the family.

After two weeks of armed guards scuffling in the hallways, riot police on the premises, and water and electricity being inexplicably shut off, the fight for control of the Trump International Hotel and Tower in Panama reportedly reached a resolution Monday.

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According to multiple reports, including from the Associated Press and ABC, the Trump Organization has been officially ousted from the property, following months of efforts from the hotel’s majority owner, Orestes Fintiklis, to evict Trump Hotels staff. Fintiklis now appears ready to erase Trump brand from the entire property.

In a clip from Univison’s David Adams, Fintiklis said the matter is “a purely commercial dispute that just spun out of control — and today this dispute has been settled by the judges and the authorities of this country. Today Panama has showcased its stable institutions, rule of law, and investor friendly legal framework.”

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A number of police officers arrived on the hotel premises Monday to resolve the dispute in Fintiklis’ favor, although it is unclear if their presence was directly related to a prior ruling against the Trump Organization.

The AP reported that the Trump Organization’s security team had “abandoned the area” after Monday’s visit from police and a Panamanian judicial official. Both the Trump Organization and Fintiklis’ Ithaca Capital Partners did not immediately respond to ThinkProgress’ request for comment.

For weeks, Trump Hotels staff had refused to follow Fintiklis’ termination and eviction orders. The dispute between Fintiklis and the Trump staff has not only decimated occupancy rates at the hotel — once considered one of Ivanka’s foremost projects — but threatened to become a spiraling controversy that could engulf the White House.

Last week, the Panamanian government opened an official inquiry into the ongoing dispute. As the New York Times reported, “An arm of a foreign government finds itself in the extraordinary position of investigating a business owned by the American president.” Or as a spokesperson for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) told Business Insider, “When the president refused to divest from his businesses, there was always the fear that there would be some sort of incident at one of his overseas entities, and his judgment and loyalty could be tested. That fear has been realized.”

It remains unclear whether that inquiry is still open. Neither Trump nor the White House has commented on the matter.

Trump’s latest stumble

Monday’s development is the latest blow against Trump and the business ventures with which he continues to surround himself. With the ruling, Panama appears set to follow Brazil and Canada in deliberately removing the Trump brand from one of its properties.

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Trump’s Panama property has long been considered one of the president’s most controversial investments. With a 2017 report from Global Witness noting that the building had laundered “proceeds from Colombian cartels’ narcotics trafficking,” making Trump “one of the beneficiaries” of such laundering, questions continue to pile about what the president and his family knew about the money laundering swamping the property.

Last week, a pair of California and New York lawmakers demanded answers about what the president knew, requesting information on Trump’s due diligence — or lack thereof — when it came to the Panamanian property, which he had reportedly described as Ivanka’s “baby.”

Even with the Trump team reportedly ousted from the property, however, questions about Trump’s business acumen, and the threat his tangled overseas assets pose to his presidency, linger.


UPDATE, 5:30 p.m.:

In an emailed statement to ThinkProgress, Trump Hotels disputed reports that the Trump Organization’s relationship with the Panamanian property had officially ended. According to the statement, on Monday “a Panamanian court issued an order authorizing the appointment of a temporary, third party administrator to oversee the management of the property while the underlying dispute is being litigated.” The Trump Hotels statement added that “there has been absolutely no determination whatsoever by any court or other tribunal as to the status of the management agreement.”

The statement arrived a few hours after workers at the hotel had begun removing Trump’s name from the property.