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Tue Apr 4, 2017, 08:57 PM

Trump Kleptocracy Watch: An Update

A quick reminder: when trying to figure out what Donald Trump is up to, it always pays to heed Deep Throat’s advice and follow the loot. The past few days have been busy ones on the Trump money beat. Although the latest developments aren’t particularly surprising, they add to the picture of a supposedly populist Administration that is actually the richest, most conflicted, and least transparent in living memory.

On Monday, ProPublica, the investigative news site, reported that someone had changed the terms of the trust that Trump established before he entered the White House. The trust controls the four hundred or so businesses that Trump owns, and a new clause says that its trustees—Trump’s two sons, Eric and Don, Jr., and a family lawyer, Allen Weisselberg—“shall distribute net income or principal to Donald J. Trump at his request, as the Trustees deem necessary for his maintenance, support or uninsured medical expenses, or as the Trustees otherwise deem appropriate.”

That language reads like a license for the President to extract as much money as he wants from his businesses, with no public disclosure, while he’s still in the White House. For example, it appears to suggest that the trustees could sell a Trump-owned asset anywhere in the world and forward the proceeds to Trump’s bank account without informing anybody.

Trump isn’t taking his annual Presidential salary of four hundred thousand dollars: on Monday, the White House announced that he would donate some of it to the National Park Service. So, he may need income to pay his personal bills and contribute to the upkeep of his family. But legal experts consulted by ProPublica said that the language in the trust was so broad that it was almost unheard of.


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