Trump seems to think being president should work just like investing in real estate.
Trump described the office of the presidency itself like a real estate deal, calling it a "loser" because he claims he has been unable to make money from his position.
"I lost massive amounts of money doing this job," Trump whined to the New York Times in a Thursday interview. "This is not the money. This is one of the great losers of all time. You know, fortunately, I don’t need money. This is one of the great losers of all time. But they’ll say that somebody from some country stayed at a hotel. And I’ll say, ‘Yeah.’ But I lose, I mean, the numbers are incredible."
Trump's comments aren't just distasteful; they're also false. He squeezes money out of the Oval Office and into his own pockets on a regular basis.
But even if Trump ends up losing money on these corrupt deals, it doesn't matter — they're still corrupt, and this is still not how the presidency is supposed to work.
Trump has put in place several different strategies that have made it possible for him to personally profit from the presidency.
Trump refused to follow the tradition embraced by both Democratic and Republican presidents of setting up a blind trust or selling off their assets in order to keep their private financial interests separate from their duties as president.
Instead, Trump put his sons in charge of the Trump Organization — and the profits from the company still flow to him. Trump also remains free to strategize about the family business with his children while he's supposed to be serving the public.
If foreign governments or domestic corporations want to seek favors from the U.S. government, they know that they can effectively bribe Trump by patronizing venues like Trump's D.C. hotel.
The hotel itself has capitalized on this by adding a premium to its rates compared to other facilities in the area. That means even more money can make its way into Trump's pockets.
In fact, Trump started profiteering before he was even sworn in. One out of every $10 donated to Trump's presidential campaign ended up coming back to Trump himself. The Trump Organization billed the Trump campaign and the Republican National Committee for renting office space at Trump Tower and for flights on Trump's private jet.
Republican campaign money has continued to flow into Trump properties during his two years in office — and with the bully pulpit of the White House, Trump can rake in more cash than ever before.
Trump has also improperly used his duties as president to fundraise for his re-election campaign. He wore his campaign hat while on official government business preparing for hurricane landfall, using the backdrop of suffering and property destruction to earn money for himself.
Trump created another cynical fundraising opportunity after he shut down the federal government because Congress won't give him billions to erect a racist border wall. He sold his supporters "bricks" to be sent to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), with the proceeds going toward his campaign.
If Trump pulls the same grift with his 2020 campaign that he did in 2016, some of that money will also profit him personally in addition to funding his campaign.
While in office, Trump has also taken frequent trips to his Mar-a-Lago resort and club in Florida, which serves as free advertising for the property. And now one of the perks of Mar-a-Lago membership is the opportunity to rub elbows with the president of the United States — or even influence how agencies like the Office of Veterans Affairs do business.
Despite his disingenuous protesting, Trump has made a lot of money from the presidency, using methods that an ethical leader would never dream of.
Trump uses the office to rake in donations for his party, which then funnels funds back to his companies. Or he simply makes it clear that doing business in his White House involves transferring money to Trump properties as a sort of tip.
It's corruption all the way down.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.