President Donald Trump will benefit financially from a deal between a foreign country and his New York towers.
Unfortunately for the American people, a lawsuit that sought to stop the president from gaining from such transactions was dismissed just before the deal’s announcement.
The Guardian reports that the Qatari government purchased a $6.5 million apartment in the Trump World Tower. This is the fourth unit purchased by the foreign government, which now owns four units in the building, totaling $16.5 million.
The apartments were signed to Qatar’s mission to the United Nations (UN), which could simply mean the state is securing locations for its diplomats and officials.
“These apartments, plus the recent unit, were all purchased due to their location, nothing more,” the Qatari mission to the UN said.
But the latest purchase appears to signal something else completely, as it coincides with the country’s lobbying campaign. Jordan Libowitz, the spokesman for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) said this deal smells of corruption.
“This plays to the central concern with the president’s refusal to divest from his holdings — that he would be susceptible to influence from foreign countries invested in his businesses,” he said.
The latest unit purchased by Qatar was previously owned by two sisters who bought the three-bedroom condominium in 2007 for $5 million. But Trump owns the building, and residents pay monthly fees for the space.
The Guardian reports that Qatar’s new apartment costs the Middle Eastern government $3,151 a month.
Other countries also own units in the building, such as Afghanistan, India, and Saudi Arabia, CREW said in its lawsuit. Along with Qatar, these countries were already paying over $225,000 in monthly fees to Trump prior to Qatar's latest purchase.
After the Saudi royals and their allies imposed an embargo against Qatar, the country struggled to remain influential in Washington, even though it houses an important U.S. military command as well as 10,000 American troops. Trump initially supported the Saudis, but he was reminded of Qatar’s importance by his officials.
Qatar spent billions of dollars in weapons from the United States as well as $5 million on lobbying firms since last June, so it’s clear that the country is doing all in its power to have a say in U.S. foreign policy. The fact that the president stands to gain personally from deals involving the country just makes their influence much more dangerous.
While the ruling on CREW’s lawsuit stated that the matters presented by the organization were an issue that only Congress could address, The Guardian explains, another lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia focuses on foreign officials spending a great deal of money at Trump’s hotel in Washington D.C.
This lawsuit, which is also being pushed with help from CREW, has already been cleared by a judge in March and is now ready to proceed.
While it’s possible that this lawsuit won’t end up amounting to much, foreign governments have been investing in Trump businesses for quite some time now. As such, the question of conflict of interest is now a much larger and much more problematic issue for the administration, and it won’t be dealt with, with just a lawsuit.
Hopefully, watchdog organizations like CREW will be able to unearth more details regarding how much influence countries have in Washington in the Trump era. Until then, the American people will continue to wonder if foreign agents are benefiting in any way from having business transactions with the president’s real estate empire.
Banner/Thumbnail Credits: Reuters/Yuri Gripas