Family businesses still pay Ivanka Trump, raising ethics questions

Anita Kumar, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

WASHINGTON -- The president isn't the only Trump with potential conflicts of interest in the White House.

Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka -- a senior White House adviser with such duties as lobbying the Senate on tax policy and representing her father at a Group of 20 summit of world leaders -- will collect more than $1 million a year from the family business that has continued to develop luxury resorts around the world during the Trump presidency.

Some of those Trump-branded developments are hiring state-owned companies for construction, receiving gifts from foreign governments in the form of public land or eased regulations and accepting payments from customers who are foreign officials.

Ivanka Trump's continued relationship with the businesses affiliated with the Trump Organization creates potential conflicts of interest prohibited by federal law and federal ethics standards as she works as a special assistant to the president. And just like her father, she is being accused of violating the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which forbids government officials -- not just presidents -- from accepting gifts from foreign governments without the approval of Congress.

"To the extent she's still taking money and she's still in the West Wing, she has many of the same issues," said Stephen Spaulding, chief of strategy at Common Cause, a nonpartisan group that has examined Donald Trump's conflicts of interest.

Much has been written about problems caused by Ivanka Trump's brand of clothes, handbags and shoes, which are primarily made overseas by low-wage laborers, but little attention has been paid to trouble caused by her continued relationship with the Trump Organization, the family real estate empire now run by two of her brothers.

And her troubles go beyond criticism that she is profiting from her father's presidency. Trump, who just returned from a trip representing the United States in South Korea, faces serious questions as a result of her decision to be involved in both the family business and the White House: Is a foreign government gaining access to her through the business? Are business deals a factor in U.S. foreign policy? Are foreign governments able to build goodwill with her because of the company?

Ivanka Trump is believed to still have only an interim security clearance nearly 14 months into her father's presidency because of the complex finances of her husband, presidential aide and New York real estate developer Jared Kushner. But her continued ties to the family businesses, whose development deals often involve international financing and buyers, could be causing the delay, according to former administration officials and attorneys familiar with clearance guidelines.

"If there are foreign financial obligations, commitments, reliances, that would be an item in a security clearance file," said Paul Pillar, former deputy chief of the intelligence community's counterterrorism center who was with the CIA for nearly three decades.

Federal employees applying for clearance do not automatically have to sell their overseas investments but it's not uncommon for them to be forced to divest larger stakes and resign positions at companies. The criteria for determining who is granted a clearance indicates businesses are a concern that could be disqualifying: "Substantial business, financial, or property interests in a foreign country, or in any foreign-operated business that could subject an individual to a heightened risk of foreign influence or exploitation or personal conflict of interest."


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