Donald Trump, Xi Jinping
President Donald J. Trump and Xi Jinping, President of the People’s Republic of China, June 29, 2019, at the G20 Japan Summit, Osaka, Japan. Photo credit: The White House / Flickr

A damning new report from the Democratic members of the House Oversight Committee calculates Donald Trump’s “harvest of unlawful foreign state money.”

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Don’t expect Rep. James Comer (R-KY), the chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, to appear on Fox News today to rail against the “Trump crime family” and how the former president received millions of dollars from foreign governments while in office… but maybe he ought to. 

After all, what Trump did, according to a report the Democratic members on his panel released Thursday, is very similar to what Comer on a daily basis accuses President Joe Biden of doing. 

We say “similar” because there are some key differences. 

First of all, the Democrats present actual evidence of wrongdoing in a detailed, 156-page document, while Comer is relying on vague insinuation and debunked nonsense. 

In addition, the Republicans’ probe of “the Bidens” is extremely vague when it comes to which crimes have been committed and by whom. The thrust of their investigation is merely based on the fact that the president’s son Hunter, as well as other family members to a lesser extent (but not Joe Biden himself), received money from foreign entities. 

The way Comer and other Republicans are trying to spin things, “the Bidens” used their family name to assert that they might be able to influence the actions of the US government. 

There are several problems with that narrative: For example, some of the payments Hunter Biden, the central figure in this alleged scheme, received were made after his father had left office in 2017 and was a private citizen. 

Speaking of being a private citizen, that’s what Hunter Biden, who has never held a government job, is. So if some foreign entity wants to give him money hoping that he might be able to do something for them, and he either doesn’t try to help them or his father takes no action, then we might be looking at a lobbying violation — but nothing else. (Of course, Hunter is being investigated for not paying taxes on millions of dollars of income, and he should be punished accordingly for that.)

Again, it bears repeating that House Republicans have not produced any evidence tying the president to any wrongdoing. 

Conversely, the Democrats’ investigation of Trump shows that the former president himself, while in office, made millions from foreign governments and therefore violated the Constitution’s Foreign Emoluments Clause. 

There is one area in which their probe is lacking: It merely scratches the surface of Trump’s efforts to enrich himself as president. 

“To be sure, we know about only some of the payments that passed into former President Trump’s hands during just two years of his presidency from just 20 of the more than 190 nations in the world through just four of his more than 500 businesses,” the report states.

Therefore, while the Democratic lawmakers identified at least $7.8 million in foreign payments, the actual total is very likely much higher than that. 

The report notes that, prior to the 2022 midterms, committee Democrats were making headway in obtaining additional information from the former president’s accounting firm to find out the true scope of Trump’s enrichment scheme. However, when the GOP won the House majority, those efforts were quickly shut down by Comer, for whom it was more important to harass a private citizen than to investigate Trump’s documented wrongdoing. 

“Despite Chairman Comer’s decision to bury further evidence, however, even this small slice of a picture of unknown proportions allows America to glimpse the rampant illegality and corruption of the Trump presidency,” the report states. 

Most notably, after “throwing caution to the wind and the Constitution to the curb” by refusing to divest himself of his business interests, Trump continued to make money from his many properties, including hotels, apartment buildings, and golf courses. 

“It would soon become clear that he viewed the presidency as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for self-enrichment and profit maximization, courtesy of some of the most corrupt governments in the world,” the report alleges. 

Specifically, the document states that China, which is also a central player in the Hunter Biden probe, spent more than $5.5 million at Trump properties, and Saudi Arabia $615,000. 

At the same time, Trump took several actions that appeared to favor these countries or entities related to them. 

For example, he refused to sanction the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), a tenant in Trump Tower, for assisting a North Korean bank to evade US sanctions. 

Instead, the former president often bragged about how much money he got from China and Saudi Arabia. 

“I love China! The biggest bank in the world is from China. You know where their United States headquarters is located? In this building, in Trump Tower,” he said during the 2016 presidential campaign. 

Earlier, at an event in 2015, he said: “Saudi Arabia, I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!”

That became obvious once he won the presidency and signed a $100 billion arms deal with the kingdom or when he rejected the assessment of his own intelligence community that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Still, in spite of presenting so much damning evidence, don’t expect Comer and other Republicans to spring into action. Instead, it is much more likely that they will simply revert to the “I haven’t seen the report,” excuse when being asked about it. 


  • Klaus Marre

    Klaus Marre is a writer, editor, former congressional reporter, and director of the WhoWhatWhy Mentor Apprentice Program. Follow him on Twitter @KlausMarre.

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