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This week in Donald Trump's conflicts of interest: He golfs and wins

The conflicts of interest in the administration run down to even the head of the weather department


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Matthew Rozsa
October 14, 2017 10:30AM (UTC)

It's amazing how even something as seemingly innocuous as the weather can somehow be tainted by a lax ethos that has been fostered thanks to President Donald Trump and his administration, but here we are.

The Secret Service has paid Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort at least $63,000 since he became president

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In order to protect the president at his Mar-a-Lago resort, the Secret Service has had to spend $63,700, according to CNN. Most of that money was spent between February and April and was categorized as hotel costs. The concern, of course, is that by regularly visiting his own resorts and requiring Secret Service protection while he's there, Trump is in effect profiting off of taxpayers.

As Richard Painter, the former White House ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush, told CNN, "The president risks violating the domestic emoluments clause if his company is making money off of the Secret Service. To avoid that, Mar-a-Lago should either charge Secret Service a rate federal employees are authorized to pay for a hotel room under ordinary circumstances or not charge at all."

Trump continues to pump hundreds of millions of dollars into his Scottish golf courses, even though they continue to lose money

For what it's worth, being president doesn't always help you make money. Take this anecdote from Bloomberg:

Financial reports made public in the U.K. over the weekend show Trump last year faced mounting losses at Turnberry and his other Scottish golf resort, forcing him to inject more cash to cover shortfalls. Losses at Trump Turnberry, his biggest investment outside of the U.S., more than doubled to 17.6 million pounds ($23 million) in 2016, while revenue fell 21 percent to 9 million pounds. Trump’s other course north of Aberdeen also posted widening losses of 1.4 million pounds, an increase of 28 percent, while revenue fell 12 percent.

Part of the problem, business experts consulted in the article agree, is that Trump has become divisive due to his far right-wing political career. While that isn't the sole factor contributing to the decline of his Scottish golf courses — including Trump Turnberry, which he has called his "baby" — it is inconceivable that it hasn't played a role.

Trump's nominee to oversee the National Weather Service has conflicts in his background

Trump has nominated AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers as his as undersecretary of commerce and head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, according to Politico. This means that Myers will oversee the National Weather Service, even though in the past he has supported legislation that would limit the kinds of products that the National Weather Service could provide. His objection was that they competed with private businesses — such as the one that will still be run by his family.

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The Trump International Hotel hosted a meeting of mining lobbyists

Time and time again, we've explained why it is problematic for Trump to constantly hold political functions at his Trump International Hotel in Washington. Because he has not fully divested himself from that business, he stands to profit from any political events that are held there, which automatically creates a serious conflict of interest.

That didn't stop three members of Trump's cabinet from attending a meeting of the National Mining Association at Trump's hotel this week, according to The Washington Post — Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross, Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. While Obama officials have also attended NMA meetings, they did not do so at businesses that that president personally owned. Yet despite the public interest in knowing what was said there, given this context, spokesman Luke Popovich told the Post that "no comment on the board of directors meeting which, like virtually all such gatherings, is a private affair and its business confidential."


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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