President Donald Trump continues to profit off his presidency, particularly when it comes to benefiting from foreign investments. In the latest example, the Philippines government decided to hold a gala at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The Philippines Embassy sent out 300 invitations for the celebration to mark its 120th anniversary on June 12. Guests, who include members of the U.S. Congress, will dine on authentic Filipino cuisine and cocktails.
“The Trump Hotel may have some political undertones because it is associated with the U.S. president,” Jose Manuel Romualdez, the Philippine ambassador to the U.S., wrote. “But since several other embassies have also held their national day celebrations at the Trump hotel, which were well attended, I decided why not do it there, too.”
The move is probably just another attempt to curry favor from Trump.
“The Philippines has found a way to pay tribute to our president,” said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis. “What's at risk is our foreign policy, that it will be influenced not by what matters — human rights, civil rights or legitimate economic interests — but by the Philippines' ability to get in the good graces of our president.”
The Philippines is not the only country whose officials have checked in to the Trump-branded hotel. Kuwait, Bahrain, Malaysia and Saudi Arabia are some others. The long list of foreign governments providing business to Trump-owned enterprises is cause for concern the ties could be used to influence the president.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte has plenty of reasons to show his appreciation for Trump. Although the international community has denounced the tyrant for his war against drugs, in which he encourages extrajudicial killings of suspected drug users and drug dealers by masked and armed vigilantes, Trump has said Duterte is doing a “great job.”
Duterte also has to look for alternative ways to have an open exchange of investments and goods with the United States, particularly since Trump has announced the decision to drop out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement.
Philippine real estate developer Jose E.B. Antonio, who is also Duterte’s trade envoy, also partnered with the Trump Organization for an apartment complex in Manila, for which Trump receives $1 million-$5 million in royalties.
The gala comes at a time when Trump is facing a lawsuit from the D.C. and Maryland governments, which claims the president’s lease on the Trump International Hotel violates a U.S. constitution clause which forbids the heads of state from receiving gifts from a “foreign state.”
Trump has repeatedly said his sons, Don Jr. and Eric, are managing his organization in his absence. However, the Trump International Hotel’s director of revenue, Jeng Chi Hung, said the president is “definitely still involved” in the hotel’s operation. The hotel later denied the statement, claiming Hung only wrote them to make himself look important.
Banner/Thumbnail credit: Reuters, Brendan McDermid