Jimmy Carter had his peanut farm. The Bush family had its oil interests. But there was really no precedent for the shady and complex web of business interests Donald Trump brought into the White House with him four years ago. Not only did he never untangle himself from his personal interests; over the course of four tumultuous years, he actively blurred the line between the personal, professional, and political until there was no distinguishing between the three. If his presidency was unprecedented, so, too, will his post-presidency.
Trump never really left his financial interests behind. But when he leaves office next month, he’ll once again be the face of his family business—and, according to Politico, that’ll mean a quick return to making foreign real estate deals, raising novel ethical concerns. “The president does not feel bound by actual legal prohibitions, much less merely ethical or moral ones,” Congressman Jamie Raskin, a Democrat on the House Oversight Committee, told the outlet. “We can expect that he will continue to operate his business in conjunction with foreign businesses and governments.”
Buried in debt, and with a brand inextricably linked in the United States to his toxic politics, Trump is expected to consider or pursue real estate ventures in India, China, Turkey, and other countries after leaving office, sources familiar with his thinking told Politico. “He’ll do what he does,” former Trump executive Barbara Res said. That tracks with what his sons, who have nominally been in charge of the family business while their dad was in office, have publicly said on the matter. “After politics,” Donald Trump Jr. told an Indian newspaper last year, “we would certainly look at India and other markets.”
While the post-presidency tends to be a cushy gig for those who occupied the Oval Office—replete with paid speeches and big dollar book deals—Trump will do what no other president has done before, inviting criticism that his projects could be used to “pay back Trump for his policies as president or to influence U.S. policy through a former president,” as Politico put it. And, of course, that all becomes more complicated if Trump runs again in 2024, as he has hinted at.
“There are some boundaries that didn’t exist before,” Democratic Congressman Gerry Connolly of the House Oversight Committee told the outlet. “And I have no doubt that he will blow past those boundaries and not respect any of them.”
Given the success Trump apparently had profiting off the presidency the past four years, it’s not particularly surprising that he would continue to wield it to his benefit as he leaves office and after. Already he’s been using his dead-end battle to overturn the election results to wring money out of his supporters. But he likely hopes that what that scheme ultimately yields will look like small change compared with his post-presidency ventures. “What Trump is doing is trying to make a vast fortune, which has never been tried before, parlaying his presidency into massive amounts of money abroad,” presidential historian Douglas Brinkley told Politico. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”
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