Forbes: China Paid Trump At Least $5.4M During Presidency Via Trump Tower Lease
President Trump claimed during the last debate that “I don’t make money from China,” but Forbes “estimates that at least $5.4 million has flowed into the president’s business from a lease agreement involving a state-owned bank in Trump Tower.”
- In 2008, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China signed a lease for space in Trump Tower with an annual rent payment of about $1.9 million.
- Forbes noted that Trump is “well-aware of the deal,” recalling that he told three Forbes reporters in 2015 during a tour of the building: “I’ll show you the Industrial Bank of China. I have the best tenants in the world in this building.”
Trump moved from the skyscraper to the White House in 2017, but he held onto ownership of the retail and office space in the building, through his 100% interest in an entity called Trump Tower Commercial LLC. That put him in an unusual position, given that government-owned entities in China hold at least 70% of the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China. Suddenly, a routine real estate deal became a conduit for a foreign superpower to pay the president of the United States.
- Ethics experts raised concerns over Trump’s business dealings after he won the presidency in 2016, but “Trump’s lawyer, Sheri Dillon, claimed that routine business transactions are not violations of the so-called Emoluments Clause.”
- Trump’s lawyer also said the president would donate all foreign government profits at his hotel to the U.S. Treasury, and Eric Trump later said his father would donate foreign government profits from “all the properties.”
- Forbes noted that the Trump Organization “reportedly donated a total of $343,000 to the U.S. Treasury in 2017 and 2018,” but “over those same two years, the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China was set to pay about $3.9 million in rent.”
- “Operating profit margins inside the building are an estimated 42%, which would suggest that the deal yielded $1.6 million of earnings over those two years.” (Forbes)
- “Even if you only count roughly 70% of that money as coming from the Chinese government, it still adds up to $1.2 million—or more than three times what the Trump Organization reportedly gave to the Treasury.” (Forbes)
- Forbes noted this is not Trump’s only financial connection to China:
The New York Times revealed Tuesday that the U.S. president has a bank account in China. His daughter, Ivanka Trump, received 41 Chinese trademarks from the time she was appointed a White House adviser in March 2017 to April 2019, according to an analysis of documents. The review also showed that the trademarks Ivanka applied for after her father’s inauguration got approved about 40% faster than those she sought out beforehand.