Trump’s personal interests called into question as coronavirus crisis escalates

Support us and go ad-free

Donald Trump’s responses to the coronavirus crisis have raised questions about the overlap of his public and personal concerns, with White House watchers asking whether the US president has a conflict of interests.

One of Trump’s first impulses after the outbreak of the coronavirus in China was to suggest it was a buying opportunity in the US stock market.

And even as the global peril of the virus has escalated, Trump has leaned hard on his decades of experience as a businessman, keeping his focus on the economy and financial markets and urging people to continue travelling and patronising US businesses.

“You know, a lot of people are staying here and they’re going to be doing their business here,” he said on 6 March, as stocks fell again and the tally of infected in the US climbed.

“They’re going to be travelling here. And they’ll be going to resorts here.”

Possibly that includes the businessman president’s own resorts.

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free
Trump golf estate in Balmedie
Donald Trump’s business interests include several golf resorts (Andrew Milligan/PA)

The virus provides the latest example of how the president’s public and personal interests are interwoven, but this time driven by a crisis with major global health implications in addition to financial ones.

“If there is any public health shutdown of restaurants, conventions and meetings, that will impact his property and his finances,” said Kathleen Clark, an ethics lawyer at Washington University School of Law in St. Louis.

“I think a reasonable person can conclude that he is motivated by personal interests.”

All of Trump’s properties, at home and abroad, would stand to suffer if travel and tourism business continues to evaporate.

A business travel group is estimating revenue losses globally of nearly $50 billion per month.

Trump’s recent comments were his latest rosy depiction of the crisis as he has tried to brush past the economic impact.

No president has more closely tied his political fortunes to the stock market, and a slowdown in the nation’s economy could imperil his reelection hopes.

Trump has peppered his economic advisers with questions about the impact of the virus and has boasted about the strength of the economy.

Though a self-proclaimed firewall exists between Trump and the company that bears his name, the president has been known to ask his business associates, and namely his adult sons who are now its titular heads, how his properties are faring, according to two Republican sources close to the White House.

And in recent days, Trump was slow to embrace federal recommendations against the elderly flying, or passengers travelling on cruise ships.

The White House did not respond to a request for comment as to whether the president’s handling of the epidemic was affected by ist potential impact on his properties.

Noah Bookbinder, executive director of the watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, said he was not sure the president was thinking of his properties right now.

But in deciding to not sell his business before taking office, Bookbinder said, the president raised doubts about his motives, and that in itself was damaging.

“We have to ask with almost every major policy decision whether he’s acting in the country’s interest or his own interest,” Bookbinder said.

“In a time of crisis like this, being able to trust our institutions, that our government is making the right decision for our health, economy and security is incredibly important.”

Trump Virus Outbreak
Donald Trump and vice-president Mike Pence, grappling with the coronavirus outbreak on Monday (Carolyn Kaster/AP)

For now, the privately held Trump Organisation does not appear to have suffered, but the Trump properties can ill afford a downturn in business.

The Trump Organisation has been struggling from lost business due to a backlash against the president’s rhetoric and policies.

Several buildings licensing his name have stripped it from their facades, major groups have cancelled events at his resorts, and his Scottish golf clubs continue to lose millions.

Even his Washington hotel, for all its buzz, is showing signs of struggling, as rooms stand empty. The Trump Organisation recently put the hotel up for sale.

The company did not respond to requests for comment.

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us