Trump's Lavish Gift For Visiting Japan PM Raises Some Ethical Concerns (Again)

What we do know about our new president is that he doesn’t give two squats about appearances or potential conflicts of interest.

He also doesn’t know how to be an executive politician, sticking to the ethical rules to avoid the dust-ups that we all know are coming.

According to, President Trump will be hosting Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida when the prime minister visits this weekend.

“That is a gift that the president is extending to the prime minister,” White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said in response to questions about the ethical dilemma of having a world leader stay at one of the Trump hotels.

“President Trump should not be giving personal gifts of significant financial value to foreign leaders, and President Trump should be avoiding even the appearance that he is using public office to promote his personal financial interests,” said John Wonderlich, executive editor of the Sunlight Foundation, which pushes for government openness. “By giving Prime Minister Abe a free stay at Mar-a-Lago, he is promoting his commercial brand, and flouting the ethics standards he was elected, in part, to uphold.”

Only Abe – no other member of the Japanese delegation – will be staying at Mar-a-Lago, Spicer said. “They will stay out in town with the rest of the staff,” he said.

So does that lessen the queasy feeling that some ethicists may be feeling?

It’s different from what Trump declared before being sworn in as president, and it creates an issue, even if Trump says he will foot the bill, himself.

One of Trump’s pledges was that he would donate profits from foreign governments to the U.S. Treasury.

That seems to be one of those magical, disappearing Trump promises, at this point.

It may also create a situation where one could accuse a sitting U.S. president with attempting to bribe a foreign leader.

Trump aides did not say whether they took other countries’ standards into consideration in developing the new policy. Japanese officials did not respond to requests for comment, but gifts valued at more than $45 generally must be reported, according to a United Nations report on corruption.

“President Trump’s payment for the Japanese prime minister’s visit to Mar-a-Lago illustrates the tricky ethics bind that the president has put himself in by refusing to divest from his businesses,” said Paul Seamus Ryan, a vice president at Common Cause, a government watchdog group. “On the one hand, if the Japanese prime minister had paid for his visit to the Trump-owned property, President Trump would arguably be violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause. . . . On the other hand, President Trump paying for the Japanese prime minister’s visit raises the specter of impropriety. Might President Trump be attempting to curry favor with the prime minister for some personal business reasons, or for foreign policy reasons?”

Abe was scheduled to arrive today, then travel to Florida to stay at the resort, and also to play a round of golf.

Norman Eisen, an ethics lawyer who served under President Obama stated that this will serve as a global infomercial for Mar-a-Lago.

He could be right.

Mar-a-Lago recently raised its initiation fee from $100,000 to $200,000. The annual dues are $14,000, and Abe’s night’s stay (assuming he only stays a night) is going to cost about $2,000.

The word is Trump and Abe will talk about security, currency, and a bilateral trade deal, considering Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal.

It remains to be seen if Trump offers the same luxurious weekend stay to other visiting world leaders.




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