Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

In their conversation in July, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told President Donald Trump that he had stayed at the Trump Tower in New York—offering what watchdog groups said was proof that Trump has profited from his business while in office and that world leaders have used their stays at his properties to win favorable treatment from the president. (Photo: Andreas Pross/flickr/cc)

'For-Profit Presidency on Full Display': Zelensky Mention of Stay at Trump Tower Raises Fresh Alarm Over Emoluments Violations

"This is what we've been warning about for years: proof directly from the White House that a foreign leader is trying to get in Trump's good graces by telling him he stayed at his hotel."

Julia Conley

The memorandum released Wednesday detailing President Donald Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky included a comment from Zelensky that anti-corruption watchdogs called clear evidence of the constitutional violations they've warned about since before Trump took office.

"This kind of casual corruption is an inevitable outgrowth of Trump's refusal to divest his business holdings and his everyday violation of Constitution's anti-corruption clause."
—Robert Weissman, Public Citizen

While most media reports on Wednesday focused on Trump's request that Zelensky "do us a favor" after the Ukrainian leader raised the question of buying U.S. military equipment, groups including Public Citizen and Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) pointed out a less remarked-upon comment from Zelensky that the "last time I traveled to the United States, I stayed in New York near Central Park and I stayed at the Trump Tower."

Zelensky made the remark after the two discussed coordinating an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden with Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr.

The brief mention of Zelensky's patronage at Trump's property revealed "the for-profit presidency on full display," Public Citizen tweeted.

Robert Weissman, president of Public Citizen, pointed out ther casual nature of the exchange about Zelensky's stay at Trump Tower.

"The comment was natural and exactly the sort of remark that new acquaintances make to each other when they are getting to know one another other," Weissman said in a statement. "It was also exactly the sort of remark that a person would make to Trump—a man notably susceptible to flattery and sycophantism—if he or she were trying to get in his good graces."

"This kind of casual corruption is an inevitable outgrowth of Trump's refusal to divest his business holdings and his everyday violation of Constitution's anti-corruption clause," Weissman added.

As Common Dreams has reported, critics have warned repeatedly that Trump's continued involvement in his business empire, the Trump Organization, has led to flagrant violations of the Constitution's Emoluments Clause.

The clause prohibits the president from receiving any gifts or payments from foreign or state leaders without congressional approval.

Trump's refusal to divest from his business when he took office opened the possibility that he could financially benefit when leaders like Zelensky stay at his properties, leaving the U.S. government owing a favor to foreign entities.

"This is what we've been warning about for years: proof directly from the White House that a foreign leader is trying to get in Trump's good graces by telling him he stayed at his hotel," tweeted CREW.

In a pending lawsuit against the president, which was reopened by a federal court earlier this month, CREW argues Trump's violation of the Emoluments Clause has led to unethical financial entanglements with the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and other countries that send delegations to stay in the president's hotels.

The transcript revealed that Zelensky may have sought to win favorable treatment from Trump as well, Public Citizen communications director Angela Bradbery wrote Wednesday.

"This isn't normal," Bradbery tweeted.

Some reporters took note of new evidence that the president violated the Emoluments Clause within Trump's conversation with Zelensky.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Please select a donation method:

AOC Slams Conservative Dems Who Would Rather Skip Town Than Vote to Extend Eviction Ban

"We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority."

Jake Johnson ·


'A Devastating Failure': Eviction Ban Expires as House Goes on Vacation and Biden Refuses to Act

"We’re now in an eviction emergency," said Rep. Cori Bush. "Eleven million are now at risk of losing their homes at any moment. The House needs to reconvene and put an end to this crisis."

Jake Johnson ·


With Election Days Away, Bernie Sanders Headlines Get-Out-the-Vote Rally for Nina Turner

In his keynote speech, Sanders said corporate interests are pulling out all the stops to defeat Turner because "they know that when she is elected, she is going to stand up and take them on in the fight for justice."

Jake Johnson ·


Bush, Pressley, and Omar Sleep Outside Capitol to Demand Extension of Eviction Moratorium

Rep. Cori Bush, who was formerly unhoused, slammed her Democratic colleagues who "chose to go on vacation early today rather than staying to vote to keep people in their homes."

Jake Johnson ·


As Progressives Call for End to Blockade, Biden Announces More Sanctions Against Cuba

The move comes after Democratic leadership in the House blocked an amendment to roll back limits on how much money people in the United States can send to family on the island nation.

Jessica Corbett ·