Reports of Foreign Favors to Trump's Business Empire Sharpen Focus On Emoluments Violations

Panama's government intervened to make sure a sewage system near President Trump's Ocean Club International Hotel was finished, after a contract to complete the project fell through. (Photo: Bruce Dailey/Flickr/cc)

Reports of Foreign Favors to Trump's Business Empire Sharpen Focus On Emoluments Violations

"The burden shouldn’t be on the public to find conflicts of interest, the burden should be on the public servant to show they’ve been eliminated."

Government watchdogs have catalogued the favorable treatment given by foreign governments to President Donald Trump's business empire since he entered office, finding what ethics experts say are multiple constitutional abuses.

Governments in Indonesia, Panama, Uruguay, and other countries where Trump has resorts and golf courses have issued building permits and loosened environmental regulations to the benefit of the Trump Organization, which critics say is equivalent to foreign governments giving gifts to the president.

"If you have a foreign government providing a benefit to the Trump company that is going to violate the emoluments clause of the Constitution," Noah Bookbinder, executive director of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told McClatchy.

As McClatchy reported, local officials in Indonesia are planning to build a road between Bali's main airport and Trump's new golf resort on the island, doubtlessly bringing increased business to the property.

"When the work is completed, the travel time from the airport to MNC Bali Resort or vice versa will only be about 25 minutes," wrote Trump's development partner, MNC Land, in its 2016 annual report.

In Panama, the president's company has been afforded similar treatment, with the government stepping in to finish a sewage system near a Trump hotel after the project stalled.

CREW has been a leader in calling attention to Trump's alleged ethics violations, mounting one of three emoluments lawsuits against the president. The group pledged to continue its fight after their case, alleging that the Trump Organization has defied the Constitution by renting out rooms and meeting spaces to foreign officials, was dismissed last month.

"We were forced to bring our landmark Emoluments case because the plaintiffs in this case--and the American people--have been directly harmed by the President's violations," said the group on December 21 after a federal judge threw the lawsuit out. "While today's ruling is a setback, we will not walk away from this serious and ongoing constitutional violation."

The attorneys general of Washington, D.C. and Maryland have also filed an emoluments lawsuit against Trump, as have 200 Democratic lawmakers.

Instead of divesting his assets and placing them in a blind trust when he became president, as his predecessors did, Trump placed his business holdings in a trust which he can access or revoke at any time. He also made no promise to terminate transactions with foreign governments, saying he would continue "normal and customary arrangements" made before he took office.

Critics say reports like those regarding Panama's and Indonesia's favors to the Trump Organization likely only scratch the surface of the president's Constitutional violations--causing greater concerns for the American public, which has been given little sense from the president regarding the nature of his involvements with foreign powers.

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