Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort may get hours of free TV time when the president visits what he calls the “southern White House,” but the branding isn’t helping business.
The president’s oft-visited Florida estate raked in $22 million in revenue during 2018, almost $3 million less than Trump reported on his form last year.
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The decline in business was perhaps due in part to the government shutdown at the end of the year, which caused Trump to twice push back — and ultimately cancel — his trip to the resort for the holidays.
White House officials are required by law to disclose certain financial information. The president’s annual disclosure, filed to the Office of Government Ethics, provides rare insight into his personal finances — a source of intense speculation since Trump bucked decades of tradition by refusing to release his tax returns during or after his run for the White House.
Trump’s financial disclosures made over the course of his presidency have shown that holding office has helped some of his business ventures.
For instance, his 1987 “Art of the Deal” earned as much as $1 million over the past year, continuing a sales spike dating back to Trump’s time on the campaign trail.
However, the president isn’t making much from more than a dozen other books he’s authored. Most of them brought in next to nothing — $201 or less, according to the report.
Trump’s latest disclosure was made amid an escalating clash between the White House and Democratic lawmakers over access to the president’s financial records. Multiple House committees have demanded Trump’s tax returns and documents from his accounting firm and banks, in some cases issuing subpoenas for the documents.
Democrats have argued they require Trump’s financial information for their joint investigations into potential foreign influence on the U.S. political process and possible abuse of the U.S. financial system. Trump has filed personal lawsuits to block the subpoenas of his banks and accounting firm, alleging they are politically motivated and an abuse of congressional power.
The House Oversight Committee, in particular, issued a subpoena seeking eight years of Trump financial documents from his accounting firm to examine claims made by Trump’s former personal attorney and fixer Michael Cohen, who alleged the president would illegally manipulate the perception of his personal wealth for personal benefit.
While testifying before the House Oversight Committee earlier this year, Cohen provided copies of Trump’s financial documents, which the president’s former attorney said were sent to Deutsche Bank in 2014 to seek a loan. Cohen told lawmakers Trump would inflate the value of his assets to secure loans or ensure he would be listed on Forbes’ list of the world’s wealthiest people, or deflate his assets to reduce his taxes.
The 88-page document Trump voluntarily filed Wednesday and similar reports from past years don’t reveal an exact picture of his net worth.
Cohen was a key figure in the buzz surrounding Trump’s annual ethics filing last year for the $130,000 payment the president’s former attorney made to Stormy Daniels, an adult film star who has claimed she was paid to keep quiet about a relationship with Trump.
Cohen this year provided copies of checks from the president’s personal bank account — signed in 2017 — to the House Oversight Committee, telling lawmakers it was part of a reimbursement for Cohen’s 2016 payment to Daniels.
Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has said Cohen received money for the payments through a monthly retainer that totaled as much as $460,000 in 2017.
The president received backlash for his annual ethics filing last year for failing to disclose this reimbursement in his 2017 report as a liability. Trump’s 2018 report included a footnote disclosing the transaction between the president and his former attorney, which was presented as a voluntary move made in the “interest of transparency.”
The OGE knocked Trump for leaving off the money he owed Cohen in his 2017 disclosure and sent a letter last year alerting the Department of Justice of the omission. House Oversight Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) earlier this year said he received documents from the OGE showing that two of Trump’s attorneys lied to ethics officials about the payments made to Cohen.
A federal judge on Tuesday raised doubts about arguments from Trump’s attorneys that the congressional subpoena to access his accounting firm records was an invalid use of lawmakers’ power. A ruling is likely to be made in the coming days.
Nancy Cook, Andrew Restuccia and Theodoric Meyer contributed to this report.