Category Archives: Trump Check – News & Guts

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WaPo: Trump’s Doral Resort in “Sharp Decline” Due to “Trump Brand”

The Trump National Doral resort in Miami — one of the gaudiest jewels in the president’s golf-centered business crown — has lost much of its glitter in recent years.

And Trump himself — his name, his behavior, his “brand” — seems at least partly to blame.

The sprawling, 800-acre resort, with nearly 650 hotel rooms, is in “sharp decline,” reports the Washington Post quoting a tax consultant for the Trump Organization as saying it is “severely underperforming” other resorts in the Miami area.

The Doral opened in 1962 and thrived for decades, a magnet for wealthy celebrities and star golfers. But it was in bankruptcy when Trump bought it for $150 million in 2012 and spent $250 million more on extensive renovations, all financed by a loan from Germany’s Deutsche Bank.

Trump has listed the Doral “as his biggest moneymaker hotel,” says the Post. But late last year, tax consultant Jessica Vachiratevanurak told a Miami-Dade County official that “room rates, banquets, golf and overall revenue were all down since 2015” and that “the resort’s net operating income … had fallen by 69 percent” in two years.

The reason, she said, is “negative connotation that is associated with the [Trump] brand.”

The Post says it’s “the first known case in which a Trump Organization representative has publicly acknowledged the president’s name has hurt business,” and suggests “the Trump Organization’s problems are bigger than previously known.”

After reviewing data about the Doral’s finances that Trump had to provide Miami-Dade County, an analyst hired by the Post declared that “profitability is down across the board,” although the resort remains profitable, “in part because it has reduced expenses.”

Doral’s decline “is especially significant because the resort had seemed better insulated from political backlash than other Trump properties, protected by its place in golf’s history, by its recent renovations, and by its location in a booming state that Trump won in 2016.”

Turns out, it wasn’t.

The Doral is managed by the president’s son, Eric, who calls the Post story “completely senseless,” adding that “Our iconic properties are the best in the world and our portfolio is unrivaled by anyone.”

The Trump Organization sought to explain the declines at Doral in a statement to the Post “that implicitly contradicted its own tax consultant and blamed factors that had nothing to do with Trump’s name,” including fears of the Zika virus and hurricanes in 2016 and 2017, that reduced tourism in South Florida.

But statistics provided to the county by Trump’s own company “showed competing resorts in the same region of Florida still outperformed the Trump resort in the key metrics of room occupancy and average room rate.”

Some other Trump properties, including office buildings he partly owns in New York and San Francisco, continue to yield tens of millions in profits for the president, but they do not bear his name.

But revenues from other properties, including hotels in Chicago and New York, fell after Trump entered the presidential race in 2015.

What began with the Macy’s department store chain dropping Trump-branded neckties during the campaign and New York City building owners stripping his name from their properties has led to a shrinking of Trump’s customer base among a wide swath of businesses, charities, wealthy travelers and golfers to a more narrow pool of clients who are aligned with his politics,” says the Post.

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Reuters: Foreign Governments Lease Units in Trump World Tower Without Congress’s Knowledge

For much of the past two years, at least seven foreign governments have rented luxury condominiums in the Trump World Tower in New York, without approval from Congress, Reuters reports, calling it “a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause.”

“The rental transactions, dating from the early months of Trump’s presidency … could add to mounting scrutiny of his business dealings with foreign governments, which are now the subject of multiple lawsuits,” the news service says.

The leases were approved by the State Department, but congressional staffers told Reuters Congress was kept in the dark about the lease requests, an apparent violation of the Foreign Missions Act of 1982, under terms of the emoluments clause.

Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said his committee has been “stonewalled” in its efforts to obtain detailed information about foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses.

This new information raises serious questions about the President and his businesses’ potential receipt of payments from foreign governments,” Cummings said in a statement to Reuters. “The American public deserves full transparency.

The governments of Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand and the European Union got the green light to rent a combined eight units in Trump World Tower, Reuters says. It could not confirm whether the State Department approved lease requests from Algeria and South Korea or three more from Kuwait.

The 90-story tower is located near United Nations Headquarters on the East River side of Manhattan.

“The revenue Trump draws from foreign government business at his properties … has sparked lawsuits by U.S. lawmakers and the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, alleging this income violates the emoluments clause,” Reuters says.

It notes that in 2017 the president made more than $15 million from Trump Corp. properties, though it’s unknown how much of that came from the World Tower.

Some of the foreign governments, like Saudi Arabia, previously bought multi-million-dollar units in the building.

A spokesman for the Saudi mission to the UN told Reuters his government and others “pay for these units in the building not to get favors from Trump or anything, but just because it’s very convenient and comfortable for us.”

Most of the other governments involved declined to comment, or did not respond.

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Trump Sues to Block Banks From Testifying to Congress

President Trump has stepped up his effort to prevent Congress and the public from seeing inside details of his business practices by filing a federal lawsuit against two major banks.

The suit, filed Monday in Manhattan, is aimed at blocking Germany’s Deutsche Bank and Virginia-based Capital One from responding to subpoenas issued by House committees.

The president’s three eldest children — Donald Jr., Ivanka and Eric — are also named in the suit.  

“The suit appears to be part of an increasingly aggressive counteroffensive by Mr. Trump’s administration and his business empire to thwart attempts by House Democrats to investigate him and his presidency,” reports the New York Times.

Legal analysts say it’s doubful the suit can do anything but delay House investigations, but lawmakers say that may be the point.

Two House committees — Intelligence and Financial Services — have issued suboenas to Deutsche Bank, which has a history of lending large sums to Trump’s company. The Times quotes sources “with knowledge of the investigation” as saying it relates to “possible money laundering by people in Russia and Eastern Europe.”

The Trump suit contends that the subpoenas “have no legitimate or lawful purpose,” but are intended to “rummage through every aspect of his personal finances … for any material that might be used to cause him political damage.”

The lawyers representing Trump warned that all Americans should be concerned about the “sweeping, lawless invasion of privacy” the subpoenas supposedly represent.

Key House Democrats shrugged off the president’s action. Reps. Maxine Waters (D-CA), chairwoman of the Financial Services Committee, and Adam Schiff (D-CA), chairman of the Intelligence Committee, issued a joint statement calling the suit “meritless.”

The statement notes that in business dealings, Trump commonly used lawsuits and threats of them to intimidate others, but that won’t work with Congress.

In fact, it says, “This lawsuit is not designed to succeed; it is only designed to put off meaningful accountability as long as possible.”

A a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank said: “We remain committed to providing appropriate information to all authorized investigations and will abide by a court order regarding such investigations.” There’s been no comment so far from Capital One.

The Washington Post says legal experts predict the courts will be “unwilling to stand in the way of congressional oversight.”

“This isn’t a close legal question,” said David Alan Sklansky, a professor at Stanford Law School. “I’m quite confident there has never been a situation where a congressional subpoena has been quashed without a finding that it violates a constitutional right.”

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Trump Revives Old, Discredited Spying Claim Against Britain

Britain seems determined to remain on friendly terms with the United States; on Wednesday, Queen Elizabeth II invited President Trump for a state visit, and Trump accepted.

But that was yesterday.

On Thursday, Trump tweeted his apparent belief that Britain “helped the Obama administration spy on his 2016 presidential campaign,” reports the Washington Post.

“WOW!” the president wrote, predicting it’s “a question of time before the truth comes out…”

“Trump cited a report, attributed to the conservative One America News Network, that cited an accusation of British spying made by Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and blogger who has spurred controversies over other false claims as well,” the Post says.

The spying claim has been strongly denied by both U.S. and British officials, and on Thursday a British intelligence spokesman called it “nonsense.”

Two years ago, “Fox News commentator Andrew Napolitano raised the prospect of British spying on air, and Johnson later acknowledged being a source for Napolitano,” the Post says, adding that then-White House press secretary Sean Spicer mentioned the claim. during a press briefing.

“The White House subsequently backed away from the claim, and Fox News disavowed it,” says the Post.

Now, Trump appears ready to revive the controversy, though his motives are unclear. He’s due to visit Britain and meet the queen in early June.

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Politico: Trump unleashes on the media in morning tweetstorm

Donald Trump seems more active on Twitter today than usual and that’s saying something.

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