Monday, March 23, 2020

Trump Was Asked Whether His Personal Properties Would Benefit from a Proposed $500 Billion Treasury Fund for Distressed Companies. He Wasn't Able to Give a Straight Answer.
Joseph Zeballos-Roig
Mar. 23, 2020, 04:09 PM

Trump declined for the second time in a row to answer whether his large hotel business could benefit from a proposed government bailout fund.

"Let's just see what happens," Trump said at the White House.

Trump's hotel businesses have weathered closures, layoffs, and a substantial loss of income.

Some ethics experts say that should Trump's hotels accept emergency federal money, it could violate the Constitution.

President Trump was asked on Sunday evening whether his hotel businesses would potentially benefit from a proposed $500 billion fund overseen by the Treasury Department to extend emergency funds to large businesses coping with the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

He didn't explicitly rule it out, and instead gave a long, rambling answer that touched on his decision to donate his salary each year and boasted about his entrepreneurial acumen.

"Let's just see what happens," Trump said at the White House. "We have to save some of these great companies."

It was the second time in recent days Trump declined to give a firm answer on the issue. He did the same on Saturday.

"I don't know," Trump said. "I just don't know what the government assistance would be for what I have. I have hotels. Everybody knew I had hotels when I got elected. They knew I was a successful person when I got elected, so it's one of those things."

Trump said he's handed over the daily management of his businesses to his two sons, Donald Trump Jr. and Eric, though he still maintains a personal ownership stake.

On Monday, Democrats blocked for the second time a massive $1.8 trillion stimulus bill aimed at bolstering an economy that's been devastated by the coronavirus. Democrats have been strongly critical of a proposed $500 billion pot of money aimed at helping distressed companies, including major airliners and cargo carriers.

They also warn it could serve as a "slush fund" that disproportionately benefits large businesses, which could include Trump's hotels. Democrats are seeking to impose much tougher conditions on companies that accept emergency funding, as well as ensure the president can't direct government money to enrich himself.

The Washington Post reported the president's businesses have been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic as his resorts in Las Vegas, Miami, Ireland, and Turnberry, Scotland are closed — and likely suffering a substantial loss of income. His hotels are still open in Washington and New York, but they laid off many workers.

The Constitution bars presidents from accepting federal money beyond their salary. If Trump's businesses receive a bailout, ethics experts say that could raise constitutional issues.

Walter Shaub, the former head of the US Office of Government Ethics, said any federal lifeline to the Trump Organization would "violate" the Constitution as an "illegal emolument."

"Congress MUST explicitly ban Trump Org from getting ANY money AND must include other built-in oversight," Shaub wrote in a tweet.

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