Ethics watchdogs have warned about Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest since before he took office — and for good reason.
Despite claiming that he would divest from his businesses, Trump simply turned them over to his sons, keeping himself closely involved with their operations and financial dealings.
Besides the obvious ethical dilemma posed by a president who profits off his position as the head of state, there are also national security and public interest issues at hand.
Namely, there are concerns that Trump properties may become a conduit for foreign governments and officials to curry favor with Trump by spending money at his hotel.
It has also been noted that Trump could funnel taxpayer money into his own pockets by using his properties to host government events and employees.
Now, an investigation into Trump’s Washington, D.C. hotel has uncovered the first public evidence of taxpayer money flowing directly into the coffers of the Trump-owned business.
The investigation, conducted by the non-profit watchdog group Property of the People, found that an employee working for the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) — the government agency tasked with administering the travel charge card program for all federal agencies — spent more than $1700 during a 2017 stay at the Trump International Hotel and the BLT Prime Restaurant located within the hotel.
The GSA then reimbursed the employee for the majority of the charges — meaning that tax dollars went directly from the U.S. government to the Trump property.
While $1700 might not seem like a lot of money, the transaction is proof that Trump is using his D.C. hotel to profit directly from taxpayer money.
“Regardless of how much he makes on any individual transaction, the President is sending a signal that the White House is open for business” said Property of the People co-founder Ryan Shapiro.
“Due to his refusal to divest from his sprawling business empire, Donald Trump has turned the American Presidency into a racket.”
Further complicating matters is the fact that the GSA is in charge of managing federal buildings and land, including the Post Office building in which the Trump International Hotel is located.
“As a result, the GSA is tasked with protecting taxpayers’ interests under a 60-year lease agreement,” CNN reports.
The investigation by Property of the People is only the latest sign of trouble at the hotel. In November, House Democrats filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration to compel the release of documents related to Trump’s continued involvement with the D.C. property, including potentially illegally profiting from the hotel.
While the Russia investigation is rightly making headlines, it’s more important than ever not to overlook the rampant corruption happening right under our noses.