For much of the past two years, at least seven foreign governments have rented luxury condominiums in the Trump World Tower in New York, without approval from Congress, Reuters reports, calling it “a potential violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause.”
“The rental transactions, dating from the early months of Trump’s presidency … could add to mounting scrutiny of his business dealings with foreign governments, which are now the subject of multiple lawsuits,” the news service says.
The leases were approved by the State Department, but congressional staffers told Reuters Congress was kept in the dark about the lease requests, an apparent violation of the Foreign Missions Act of 1982, under terms of the emoluments clause.
Elijah Cummings, chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee, said his committee has been “stonewalled” in its efforts to obtain detailed information about foreign government payments to Trump’s businesses.
“This new information raises serious questions about the President and his businesses’ potential receipt of payments from foreign governments,” Cummings said in a statement to Reuters. “The American public deserves full transparency.”
The governments of Iraq, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand and the European Union got the green light to rent a combined eight units in Trump World Tower, Reuters says. It could not confirm whether the State Department approved lease requests from Algeria and South Korea or three more from Kuwait.
The 90-story tower is located near United Nations Headquarters on the East River side of Manhattan.
“The revenue Trump draws from foreign government business at his properties … has sparked lawsuits by U.S. lawmakers and the attorneys general of Maryland and the District of Columbia, alleging this income violates the emoluments clause,” Reuters says.
It notes that in 2017 the president made more than $15 million from Trump Corp. properties, though it’s unknown how much of that came from the World Tower.
Some of the foreign governments, like Saudi Arabia, previously bought multi-million-dollar units in the building.
A spokesman for the Saudi mission to the UN told Reuters his government and others “pay for these units in the building not to get favors from Trump or anything, but just because it’s very convenient and comfortable for us.”
Most of the other governments involved declined to comment, or did not respond.