WASHINGTON — The Trump Organization said Sunday that it had donated the company’s 2018 profits from its business with foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury, the second year in a row that President Donald Trump’s company has made such a move in an attempt to avoid running afoul of an anti-corruption provision of the Constitution.
The donation was for $191,538, up from last year’s donation of $151,470, according to a check dated Feb. 20 and made out to the Treasury, a copy of which the company provided. The check was signed by the president’s eldest sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, who are running the company while their father is in office.
“This voluntary donation fulfills our pledge to donate profits from foreign government patronage at our hotels and similar businesses during our father’s term in office,” Eric Trump said in a statement.
Although the Trump Organization and its legal and ethics advisers argue that the company is not legally required to make such a donation, the company has said the move should fend off any questions about whether Trump is violating the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, which bars the president from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments.
However, the Trump Organization’s annual donation has not stopped legal challenges arguing that Trump is violating the foreign emoluments clause. The president and his company are contending with two lawsuits on that issue moving through the federal courts.
Arguments in one case, brought by the Democratic attorneys general of the District and Maryland, are scheduled to resume March 19 in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit in Richmond.
Critics note that the Trump Organization does not explain how it calculates its foreign profits, identify its foreign customers or say how much those customers spent at the company’s properties.
The increase in the Trump Organization’s foreign profits this year is likely to sound alarms among government ethics experts and Democrats who have been critical of Trump’s decision to maintain ownership of his business during his presidency.
Much of the scrutiny has been on the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which has benefited from spending by countries such as Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, as The Washington Post has previously reported.
The Kuwaiti Embassy recently sent invitations to its 2019 National Day celebration at Trump’s D.C. hotel, in what will be the third year that the event has been held there.
Trump Organization officials, including managers of the D.C. hotel, say that they do not pitch foreign governments and that they generally discourage foreign officials from booking business there.
“Unlike any other luxury hospitality company, we do not market to or solicit foreign government business. In fact, we go to great lengths to discourage foreign government patronage at our properties,” Eric Trump said in the company’s statement.
Company officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss details of the private company’s business, estimated that there were 24 known major head-of-state visits to Washington in 2018 and said that none of those leaders stayed at the Trump hotel. By contrast, the officials estimated that there were 33 such visits in 2017, during which two foreign heads of state stayed at the Trump hotel.
The company did not identify those leaders, but The Post reported in September 2017 that Najib Razak, then the Malaysian prime minister, was in the hotel with dozens of Malaysian officials. The Post also reported that Romanian President Klaus Iohannis was having breakfast with his wife in the hotel’s lounge in June 2017. Both countries declined to say whether the leaders had stayed overnight at the hotel.
Washington Post writers David A. Fahrenthold and Tom Hamburger contributed to this report.