A key House Republican is calling on the Trump Organization to give more details about its system for identifying and donating profits to the Treasury Department that come from foreign government officials who make payments to any of President Donald Trump’s businesses.
In a letter Friday to Trump’s attorneys, Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, and his Democratic counterpart asked for an explanation on whether the Trump Organization, Trump’s family trust or the president himself intend to claim any of the Treasury donations as a gift for tax deduction purposes.
The president’s company has promised by next year to make its first annual donation to the Treasury in an attempt to avoid a constitutional prohibition against U.S. government officials taking payments from foreign governments. Last month, a Trump Organization spokeswoman offered some initial details on that plan, which would include following “hospitality industry standards” to calculate the profits that would go toward the donation.
But Chaffetz and Maryland Democratic Rep. Elijah Cummings want more specifics.
Their letter to Sheri Dillon, an outside counsel to the Trump Organization, presses for written answers by May 12, as well as a briefing within another week, that outlines the exact process the president’s company will take to identify the foreign government payments, as well as details on the formula it will use to figure out the profits.
The lawmakers also want to know how the profits will be given to the Treasury and what approach the company will use to publicly reveal the donations. They further asked which Trump Organization entities – from its hotels to its golf courses, luxury condos and licensing deals — will be donating the profits.
Trump is maintaining ownership of his company while serving as president, though day-to-day operations are handled by his adult sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, and longtime Trump Organization executives. It’s a controversial arrangement – the president’s critics say he should donate entire payments and not just profits to the Treasury – and there are also lawsuits challenging the setup in federal court.
It’s hard to calculate the full extent of the foreign business of Trump’s companies because they are private entities, and Trump has not released his tax returns. Nonetheless, POLITICO in February reported that a lobbying firm working for Saudi Arabia paid for a room at Trump’s new Washington D.C. hotel shortly after his inauguration, marking the first publicly known payment on behalf of a foreign government since Trump became president.
Trump’s attorneys and the Trump Organization didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the lawmakers’ letter.