When Donald Trump took office, the operations of his new Washington, D.C., hotel triggered lawsuits and congressional inquiries, focused on whether foreign governments were currying favor with the President of the United States through giving business to his latest luxury property. But most of Trump’s potential conflicts can be found in the businesses he’s been running for many years, at his office towers in Manhattan, where foreign governments and American corporations with significant matters before the federal government pay Trump millions a year in rent.
A new report by Forbes shows that these tenants pay an estimated $175 million in annual commercial rent to the Trump Organization, for much of which there is very little public reporting, due to Trump’s company being privately held. Current relationships between those paying businesses and their landlord, the president, are often difficult to asses.
Take Bank of China, for example, one of Trump Tower’s largest office tenants and which pays $2 million a year in rent. Bank of China is controlled by the Chinese government, which can choose to leave the tower when its lease expires next year. Forbes speculates that Eric Trump and Donald Trump, Jr., could use their influence to entice the Chinese government to stay. And then there’s Trump’s 40 Wall Street, where drugstore Duane Reade is the biggest tenant, parent company Walgreens was in talks with the federal government over its merger with Rite Aide, which was ultimately approved by the Trump administration. Did that business relationship affect the outcome?
It’s not likely we will ever know for sure, which is why ethics experts recommended the president avoid these problems by selling his assets, something Trump refused to do. Capital One, GNC, Nike and other well-known corporations all pay rent to Trump and all face situations in which the government exerts significant influence on their operations, on everything from regulations to contracts.
And those are just the ones we know. Though Forbes found at least 164 commercial tenants across Trump’s property empire, government ethics officials have not been allowed to see the president’s rent roll. [Forbes] — Will Parker