A Case For Emoluments Clause Violations?

Donald Trump and Adam Schiff split image by Lenny Ghoul.

In 2015, Donald Trump and Indonesian business interests began planning for luxurious escapes in West Java and Bali, Indonesia. However, before Mr. Trump signed on to the Trump International Hotel and Tower Lido, a road had to be built.

Traffic in Indonesia is legendary and, in the case of Tower Lido, the 43 mile trip from Jakarta to Bogor regularly takes three hours by car.

According to Australian news outlet, ABC, in September of 2015, Mr. Trump met with Fadli Zon, deputy speaker of Indonesia’s Parliament, and Setya Novanto, speaker of the Indonesian House of Representatives at Trump Tower in New York. Although unauthorized by the Indonesian government, Hary Tanoesoedibjo, also known as Hary Tanoe, a billionaire businessman with political ties, directly assisted in the meeting. The presidential primaries were ongoing during this meeting in New York with the Indonesian politicians and during a press conference at this same time, Mr. Trump introduced Speaker Novanto as, “… an amazing man… and we will do great things for the United States.”
Consequently, the construction of a toll road between Jakarta and Bogor, which had been delayed in June of 2015, resumed construction in November of 2015 with the government taking over the project in June of 2016.

During his interview with ABC, Mr Zon said he estimated that with the impending completion of the toll road, Mr Trump and Mr Tanoe had already tripled their value of the resort land:

“Yeah. I think the price increase like three times,” he said.

The President’s latest financial disclosure, released on June 14, stated that the management fees from the Indonesian companies tied to the Bali and Lido resorts had more than doubled.

The latest disclosure puts the fees at $US380,000, up from the $US167,000 he reported in 2016.

Both Speaker Novanto and Speaker Zon were investigated by a parliamentary ethics committee over the meeting with Mr. Trump and whether it violated Indonesian codes, the results were never made public. In addition to that investigation, Speaker Novanto was caught on tape trying to extort US mining giant, Freeport-McMoRan, of shares in the company in exchange for ensuring continued operations in Indonesia. While Novanto escaped consequences from that action, he was sentenced to 15 years in prison for his part in grifting over $170m in public funds in April of this year.

Neither of Mr. Trump’s/MNC developments began to roll until after Mr. Trump’s inauguration. The Pan Pacific Nirwana Bali Resort shut down in July of 2017 to make way for the Trump International Hotel at MNC Bali Resort. However, according to an article in Travel Wire Asia(4), locals in the area were unhappy with the price Trump/MNC wanted for their properties,

That price, according to local residents, should be IDR500 million (US$37,543) per 100sq m, although MNC Group is reportedly only offering in the region of IDR100 million to 150 million (around US$7,500 to US$11,260). It stands to reason Bali residents feel they are being shortchanged, although they are also at pains to stress it’s not all about the money.

and building regulations have hampered the Bali project. The West Java Trump International Hotel Lido is part of a much larger development of the Lido community in which Chinese investments totalling $500M in a theme park have recently made headlines.
The Chinese are not the only foreign investors in the Lido City project:

Trump’s partner, MNC Land, recently entered into a preliminary agreement with Posco E&C Indonesia to become the main contractor for the first phase of the development — billed in promotional material as a “Trump Community” that includes a Disney-like theme park, a six-star hotel and a golf course.

MNC Land, through its subsidiary PT Lido Nirwana Parahyangan, and Posco E&C Indonesia officials signed a memorandum of understanding on Nov. 11 at a ceremony in Jakarta that was attended by several high-level government officials from Indonesia and South Korea and was widely covered in the foreign media.(6)

Why It Matters
From the Agence France-Presse:

Richard Painter, who was an ethics lawyer for former president George W. Bush, said the project was “problematic” and could violate a US constitutional emolument clause if Chinese government funds create profits for the Trump hotel.

Because Mr. Trump never divested himself of his business holdings, this kind of business situation leaves him ripe for emolument clause violation claims. Even if he doesn’t “mean” to be profitting off of foreign governments, does not mean it isn’t happening and that Mr. Trump gets to elude the Constitution. We either hold politicians accountable or we stop pretending we care to as this is just one of many potential conflicts of interest resting in Mr. Trump’s portfolio.
As such, Rep. Schiff and Norm Eisen, the top ethics official under Obama, are making such claims today.

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About GretchensR 16 Articles
I am a supposed bitter TDS sufferer. An equal opportunity mocker of both the Red and Blue teams, I join fellow TNBers of being politically homeless.