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This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interests: He's not really going to leave his business

Donald Trump stands to make good money as president


Matthew Rozsa
December 3, 2016 3:00AM (UTC)

It took Donald Trump no less than three tweets after 3 in the morning on Wednesday before he issued a final one in which he proclaimed unilaterally that he would soon to be free of business conflicts of interest while running the presidency of the United States:

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Then he finally declared in a triumphant tweet at 3:59 a.m. on Wednesday morning:

Hence, legal documents are being crafted which take me completely out of business operations. The Presidency is a far more important task!

As NBC News pointed out on Wednesday, these tweets do not in any way clear up concerns about conflicts of interest. "If in fact he just puts his children in charge of the business, it wouldn't actually eliminate any conflicts of interest, especially when they've been sitting in on meetings with foreign leaders," NBC News wrote.

"What the Trump campaign has done here is bought themselves time to figure out what do to — and a way to answer the continuing barrage of questions about Trump's business conflicts for the next few weeks."

And here's a sampling of some looming conflicts of interest in our weekly roundup of "This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest":

1. Conflicts keep piling up involving Trump's hotels.

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Trump seems to be dragging the swamp mud he promised to drain right through his brand-new Washington hotel: Trump International Hotel.

As The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, the Independent Community Bankers of America is booking events there. If you're a betting sort, the odds are better than not that we'll be seeing more stories about would-be power brokers staying at Trump's Washington hotel in order to get on good terms with the president-elect.

Indeed one Twitter post this week indicates that Trump International Hotel will the setting of Bahrain National Day next week on Dec. 7.

2. Donald Trump is doing business with a top Philippine government official.

Century Properties Group Inc. of Manila is a company that helped back the $150 million Trump Tower in Manila set to open there next year. Although Trump doesn't own the building and the company is only licensing his name (for $5 million), the chief executive and controlling shareholder of Century Properties is Jose E. B. Antonio. This is the same man who as of last month also served as special government envoy to the United States for Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.

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For his part, Duterte has had a very contentious relationship with President Barack Obama but, according to a Friday  article The Hill, he had a talk on Friday with President-elect Trump that one of Duterte's aides described as "very engaging" and "animated," and led to Trump inviting Duterte to visit the U.S. next year.

While Antonio, the Manila hotel's CEO, has claimed to have visited Trump Tower after Trump's election, Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks has denied that he had a chance to meet with Trump himself.

3. Trump has a beef with the Internal Revenue Service, whose boss he may soon be replacing.

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Remember how Trump kept refusing to release his tax returns during the campaign? And recall how he has used the fact that he's being audited as an excuse to keep his returns close to the vest (even though an audit does not prohibit him from releasing these documents)?

Now as the president, Trump will have the chance to make a drastic change that could affect a lot of the way the Internal Revenue Service functions. He'll be able replace the current IRS head, John A. Koskinen, whose term is set to expire on Nov. 12, 2017.

Republicans have already tried to impeach Koskinen, so it's unlikely they'll be sad to see him go, and Trump could conceivably appoint a replacement whose decisions about Trump's complicated tax past would be more favorable.

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4. Trump could make $3 million every year the Secret Service patrol New York's Trump Tower.

As Salon reported on Friday, the Secret Service — and, by extension, taxpayers — may have to spend $3 million annually so that Trump and his family can be protected while using Trump Tower in Manhattan.

By insisting on splitting his time between the White House and Trump Tower, Trump may require the Secret Service and the New York City Police Department to rent space from his very own real estate company  two vacant floors in the 68-story building so that they can effectively do their job.

5. Trump risks international trouble because he reportedly has a deal planned in China.

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On Friday, it was revealed that Donald Trump took a phone call from the president of Taiwan, endangering decades of foreign policy in which the United States treated mainland China as its only Chinese representative.

Trump said that he was called by Taiwan, but, according to reports, he's been rather interested in Taiwan for building up his portfolio.

As The Guardian reported Saturday, a representative from the Trump Organization "made inquiries about a major investment in building luxury hotels as part of the island’s new airport development."

Additionally, thanks to extensive research published Thursday by Bloomberg, we have a greater understanding of just how far and wide Donald Trump's web of real estate dealings spread — scattered in at least 23 countries across the globe. Here's a sampling from seven countries:

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In Azerbaijan, Trump licensed his name to be used on a tower that's being developed by Garant Holding, whose chairman Anar Mammadov is the son of the country's transportation minister. (Mammadov has been suspected of money laundering to Iran.)

Inside Brazil, Trump has a licensing deal for five office towers.

In neighboring Canada, the president-elect is developing a Vancouver tower, while his planned development in Toronto is facing lawsuits and bankruptcy.

For China, Trump Hotels CEO Eric Danziger announced in October plans to open properties in 20 to 30 cities.

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In India, Trump has licensed his name to be applied to two real estate projects and recently met with business partners who have ties to the Indian government.

For Indonesia, Trump Hotels is planning a pair of properties; he received as much as $5 million in 2015 from a Jakarta media company.

In the United Arab Emirates, Trump has a licensing and management deal for a Dubai golf course and luxury villas now going up. A Trump-branded golf course, to be designed by Tiger Woods, is also in the pipeline.

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Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a breaking news writer for Salon. He holds an MA in History from Rutgers University-Newark and is ABD in his PhD program in History at Lehigh University. His work has appeared in Mic, Quartz and MSNBC.

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