Donald Trump made $35 million in real estate deals to mostly secret buyers in the past year, a new report found.
A report from Newsweek noted that Trump sold more than $25 million in real estate sales in 2017, selling 41 luxury condos in Las Vegas to buyers whose identities were concealed using limited liability companies. Though Trump promised to step away from the day-to-day management of his business, he has not divested from his business ventures as other presidents have done, and is able to withdraw profit from the real estate sales.
There is even more controversy given Trump’s legislation that many believe benefits the ultra-rich. As the report noted, Trump’s tax bill included a last-minute addition giving a tax break to real estate investors who use LLCs.
Though the LLCs conceal the identity of the buyers — some of whom may be trying to distance themselves from appearing to publicly do business with the president — they identities are not unknown to Trump’s company.
“If someone wants to do business with the Trump entities in the form of an LLC, we look behind the LLC to see who the owner of it is and where the funding is coming from,” Bobby Burchfield, the ethics advisor at the Trump Organization, told the USA Today. “If we can’t determine that, we won’t sign off on it.”
The report stirred controversy among watchdog groups that claim Trump has created a conflict of interest by remaining involved in his company and benefitting from it. Trump claimed late last year to have handed over total control to his adult sons, but many believe Trump is still involved and has not created proper separation from his business interests.
President Trump’s companies sold more than $35 million in real estate in 2017, mostly to secretive shell companies that obscure buyers’ identities, continuing a dramatic shift in his customers' behavior that began during the election https://t.co/ImONB1IgMg
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) January 10, 2018
Trump has stirred controversy with other ongoing relationships with his businesses. In 2017, Trump visited his own properties nearly every weekend, USA Today noted, which diverted taxpayer money in the form of security costs into Trump’s own company.
There are also accusations that Donald Trump has not really stepped away from his business. Jeng Chi Hung, the director of revenue management for Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., wrote in a September email to an acquaintance that Trump is still very involved in the operations. His email, obtained and published by The Daily Beast, claimed that Trump still held meetings with employees and was aware of how things were going.
“DJT is supposed to be out of the business and passed on to his sons, but he’s definitely still involved…so it’s interesting and unique in that way,” Hung wrote.
Donald Trump has not responded directly to the reports that he made $35 million selling real estate to mostly secret buyers, or shed any light on who is buying the properties.