Trump can pocket money from businesses at any time, raising more ethics concerns

NEW YORK -- Want to buy a deluxe New York condo from the president of the United States? For $35 million, it’s yours: a luxurious home owned by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust.

What about vacationing at a Caribbean villa? You can rent it from another Trump business for $42,000 a week.

Or you can go west and get your own high-end condo in the Las Vegas Trump Tower, operated by “Trump Ruffin Tower I LLC.” CBS News has confirmed seven condos were sold to buyers for a total of $2.3 million since Mr. Trump was elected president.

And who benefits? Newly revealed language in Donald Trump’s trust, first reported by ProPublica, shows that he can get money from these types of transactions whenever he wants and never disclose a thing.

That’s in spite of what his lawyer Sheri Dillon said in a January press conference: “He is completely isolating himself from his business interests.”

Trusts and estates lawyer Fred Tansill says the president’s ability to take money from his trust any time might not look good.

“Even if we trust the president not to be influenced, the appearance is dreadful,” he said.

Why should anyone care? Tansill says it’s because if people know Mr. Trump is personally making a profit from a specific transaction, they might try to get something in return.

“From the point of view of the people doing business with the administration, they may feel that they have the ability to buy favorable treatment from the president and that’s a terrible appearance for our democracy,” he said.

On Monday, White House spokesman Sean Spicer responded this way:

“The idea that the president is withdrawing money at some point is exactly the purpose of what the trust-- why a trust is set up regardless of an individual,” he said.

The Trump Organization says the trust itself hasn’t changed since it was announced.

But what’s new here is that these recently unveiled public documents show the president can take the profits from his businesses out of his trust at any time, with no disclosure.