One of the biggest questions about the coming presidency of Donald Trump has been how he will address the tension between his public role of the nation’s chief executive and the private interests of the Trump Organization and his family members. And two reports out this week show just how real those tensions are.
The Center for Public Integrity on Monday night published a story demonstrating that a Texas-based non-profit recently formed by Trump’s two adult sons and two associates in Texas is already selling the opportunity to meet with President Trump -- on the day after his inauguration -- for as much as $1 million.
Also on Monday night, the liberal organization ThinkProgress published a report claiming that the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States had been pressured by officials with the Trump Organization to cancel a contract to hold the annual National Day celebration at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown and to move it to the newly opened Trump International Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House.
The stories come just days after Eric Trump canceled a controversial online auction in which he was offering the opportunity to have coffee with his sister, Ivanka, to donors willing to make a donation to a charity he sponsors. Ivanka Trump, a close adviser to her father, is expected to play a major behind-the-scenes role in the Trump White House and, like her brothers, is already serving on the presidential transition team that is in charge of filling jobs in the coming administration.
The non-profit formed by Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, called the Opening Day Foundation, is sponsoring an event the day after the inauguration next month in Washington. First reported by the website TMZ, the organization is offering sponsorship packages that include the “Bald Eagle” level. For $1 million, sponsors are entitled to a private reception and photo opportunity with the just-inaugurated president, a multi-day hunting or fishing trips with Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, and nearly 100 tickets to the event itself, and other benefits.
A $500,000 “Grizzly Bear” package also comes with a private reception with the president, and an excursion with his sons, and other amenities. Lower tier packages substitute a reception with the president for one with his children.
While the donations to the Opening Day Foundation are said to be going to unspecified conservation-related charities, the money being paid to the Trump International Hotel by the Kuwaiti Embassy for its National Day celebration will be going into the coffers of the Trump Organization, which will remain under Trump family ownership even after Donald Trump takes office as president.
According to ThinkProgress writers Judd Legum and Kira Lerner, “The Kuwaiti embassy, which has regularly held the event at the Four Seasons in Georgetown, abruptly canceled its reservation after members of the Trump Organization pressured the ambassador to hold the event at the hotel owned by the president-elect.” The source spoke to ThinkProgress on condition of anonymity, but according to the report, “ThinkProgress was also able to review documentary evidence confirming the source’s account.”
If confirmed, the story raises not just concerns about the use of political power to drive private gain, but also about whether or not Trump will be in violation of the Constitution once he takes office. The “emoluments clause” in the nation’s founding document bars the president from accepting payment from foreign governments.