Trump family grift is getting worse: Eric and Donald Jr. resurface with a discount hotel scam

It's a double dose of low-grade evil: First a craptastic Americana hotel chain, then some shady foundation funds

Published June 7, 2017 11:10AM (EDT)

Eric Trump; Donald Trump Jr. (AP/Kathy Willens)
Eric Trump; Donald Trump Jr. (AP/Kathy Willens)

Even for the Trump family, two big grifting stories in one day is a little much. But that is how it went for family failsons Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. on Tuesday.

First, the two brothers who now run the Trump Organization were featured in a splashy New York Times piece and a “Good Morning America” segment describing their latest idea to suck money out of the real Americans who voted for their father last November. As the Times described it:

[T]he Trump Organization announced plans for a new three-star hotel chain with a patriotic flair, echoing President Trump’s campaign slogan about putting America first and reflecting the organization’s promise to enter into new deals only in the United States . . . 

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On “Good Morning America” Eric said, “This is real America. To be able to go in there and cater to them as well; I think that’s a beautiful thing.” Added Donald Jr.: “We’ve stayed in every one of these hotels in every little market in the country, and we just saw that there’s a void missing, and we’re excited to try and fill it.”

So where will the Trumps kick off their effort to bring three-star hotels to the masses, an idea that reportedly came to them while they were traveling around America for their father’s campaign? As the Times noted:

The chain will make its debut in little-known towns in Mississippi, a state in the heart of Trump country that favored him over Hillary Clinton by a margin of 18 percentage points.

Mississippi is the poorest state in the country. Twenty-two percent of its residents live below the poverty line and the state had the fourth-highest unemployment rate in the nation in 2015. Its median household income for a family of four is nearly $15,000 below the national average, according to the U.S. Census Bureau,

Some president's children might see a place like that, a state where their father overwhelmingly won, and think about ways to leverage their political power to alleviate the systemic poverty and hopelessness that plagues it. The Trumps see it and their big idea — this is not a joke — to rebrand some Holiday Inns and put in the lobbies “artifacts of American culture” like old Coke machines.

And that was just in the morning. On Tuesday afternoon Forbes detailed how Eric Trump’s charitable foundation may have funneled money intended for pediatric cancer patients into the pockets of his family members and the coffers of some of their own charities — likely at the behest of his father, the current president.

Shortly before the spike in costs, the Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation — a gift explicitly made . . .  to offset the increased budget. . . .

In effect, though, this maneuver would appear to have more in common with a drug cartel's money-laundering operation than a charity's best-practices textbook. That $100,000 in outside donations to the Donald J. Trump Foundation (remember: Trump himself didn't give to his own foundation at this time) passed through the Eric Trump Foundation — and wound up in the coffers of Donald Trump's private businesses.

American presidents have a long history of relatives' capitalizing on their position to make a buck. Jimmy Carter might have had to sell his peanut farm, but his brother Billy still got to make Billy Beer. Bill Clinton’s half brother Roger, who was such a pain that the Secret Service gave him the code name “Headache,” leveraged his position into securing a career as a minor character actor who has appeared in a string of Hollywood dreck

Carter and Clinton — or their staffs — had enough self-consciousness to find this sort of lowbrow buck raking embarrassing. The Trumps, led by a patriarch with no sense of shame, are not even nodding to the idea that there might be ethical issues involved with trading on their father’s office in order to hoover up every dollar in America that isn’t nailed down. The sons trade on their father’s name to open hotels from Mississippi to Manila. Daughter Ivanka may have resigned from her business, but she still promotes the lifestyle brand that was and remains that company’s animating force on her social-media feeds. The family of Ivanka’s husband Jared has used a connection to the Oval Office to entice wealthy Chinese people into investing in real estate projects.

That members of the Trump clan are doing all this grifting out in the open, with no one to check them, is perhaps most appalling. (On “Good Morning America,” Eric admitted he shows his father the company’s profit statements but repeated the claim that Trump himself has often made that the U.S. president is exempt from conflict of interest rules.) But as history has long shown with the Trumps, nothing, not even their country, is more important than the bottom line.

By Gary Legum

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