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A Look At President Trump's History Of Profiting Off His Presidency


Among President Trump's parting words as the G-7 closed were where the summit should be held next year. It is the U.S.' turn to host, and he said Miami might be the ticket. In fact...


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Doral Miami - so it's a great area. We haven't found anything that could even come close to competing it.

KELLY: Doral outside Miami, meaning his own Doral golf club. That is prompting fresh questions about the relationship between Trump properties and the Trump presidency, questions we're going to put next to David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post.

Hey there.


KELLY: So this idea of hosting the G-7 at his golf club in Florida - first basic question - can he do that? Is that legal?

FAHRENTHOLD: Sure. Well, it's clear that he's going to do it. There seems to be nobody in the White House who's going to stop him. The question of whether it's legal is more complicated. Obviously, the Constitution says that presidents can't take payments from foreign governments. But Trump has basically ignored that rule and continued to do business with foreign governments and nobody's succeeded in stopping him.

KELLY: Now, he claims he won't make any money if his golf club hosts the G-7. What do you think?

FAHRENTHOLD: Unlikely. You're talking about some really large entourages of foreign officials, a number of U.S. officials who are going to be staying at his hotel. I don't know what he's going to charge them. You know, he could set this up in a way that he would not profit from it, but that's not the way he's run his business so far. He's done a lot of business with foreign governments, and he charges them market rate.

KELLY: Yeah. I was going to ask how this has been handled in past. He hasn't done an event quite on the scale of the G-7, but when he hosted, for example, President Xi of China at Mar-a-Lago a couple of years ago, President Xi paid, I assume.

FAHRENTHOLD: Yes, and same with Shinzo Abe, who went to Mar-a-Lago. A number of foreign guests and foreign embassies had events at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. As far as we know, they've paid market rate. And Trump's company says that it donates its, quote, unquote, "foreign profits" back to the U.S. Treasury at the end of the year. From 2017, they donated, I think, $151,000 in profit. From 2018 - 191,000. But what's the total revenue that comes out of, you know, which properties that, you know, money was spent at, which countries paid the money - we don't know any of that other detail.

KELLY: And when you said there are examples of where he has made money in past off hosting events, give me an example.

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, probably the best example is the Kuwaiti Embassy in D.C. They have a huge, lavish National Day party in Washington. It's one of the highlights of the diplomatic year. And they used to hold it at another hotel. And after Trump won, they switched it to the Trump Hotel, and they've come back every year. We don't know how much they spend because they won't answer questions about it, but a big gala event like that for an embassy - one party can be hundreds of thousands of dollars. So that's money that goes straight to the president. And, you know, some amount of that can go in his pocket.

KELLY: President Trump was asked today whether he is profiting off the presidency. Here's a little bit of what he said.


TRUMP: In a combination of loss and opportunity, probably, it'll cost me anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion to be president.

KELLY: Anywhere from $3 billion to $5 billion - David Fahrenthold, is there any evidence to support that?

FAHRENTHOLD: There's zero evidence to support that, at least that we've seen. And the scale of what Trump talks about - $3 billion to $5 billion - is implausible because the whole company's revenue is something like $600 million or $700 million a year, according to a good estimate from Crain's New York Business. So even if this took Trump's revenue down to zero, it would take a long time before he got to the $3 billion to $5 billion he says he's lost.

KELLY: To circle us back to where we began and this question of the Doral golf club, have you been there? Is it a good place to hold something like the G-7 if we just took out the fact that President Trump owns it?

FAHRENTHOLD: Well, the G-7 is a convention of the most powerful people in the world. And so traditionally, it's done at a nice but rather isolated place. Like, this year, it's in Biarritz, France. It was at Camp David the last time the U.S. hosted it. You want a place where you can put the powerful leaders and their entourages in one place and put a wall around them, make sure your security is very tight and privacy is very tight.

Doral has some of the things you would need. It's got a lot of hotel rooms, has a number of ballrooms. It's got a BLT Steak. But it's not isolated. It's in the middle of a bunch of industrial parks kind of on the west side of Miami. Also, if he puts it in Miami in the middle of the summer, it's not going to be the same kind of pleasant vacation experience that most G-7 leaders expect.

KELLY: That was David Fahrenthold of The Washington Post.

Thanks, David.


(SOUNDBITE OF EMPRESARIOS' "SIESTA") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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