US President Donald Trump and members of his administration were embroiled in controversy throughout a long year of news emanating from the White House. Cabinet secretaries have resigned, members of Trump’s family have been granted questionable loans and trademarks, the first lady has rented some expensive hotel rooms without actually sleeping in them.
Take a look at a dozen ongoing scandals still dogging the president.
Funding for Trump’s inaugural committee is still under investigation.
Federal prosecutors are investigating Trump’s inauguration committee for possible misspending of donations, several media outlets confirmed in mid-December. The probe by the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan is exploring whether donors gave an eye-popping $107 million for Trump’s inauguration ― a record high that’s more than double what Barack Obama’s committee raised in 2009 ― in exchange for access to Trump’s administration or political influence, which may constitute a violation of federal corruption laws.
Ivanka Trump used a personal email account.
White House insiders told The Washington Post last month that Cabinet agencies discovered Ivanka Trump has used a personal email account for government business hundreds of times. This could constitute a violation of the Presidential Records Act and increase the risk of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. The president’s eldest daughter defended her conduct, saying the emails weren’t deleted and that they did not contain “anything of substance.” However, the House announced days later that it plans to investigate the allegations.
The Trump Foundation had scandal-plagued finances.
A lawsuit against the Trump Foundation, the president’s personal charity, is continuing to move forward in court after the nonprofit agreed to dissolve in mid-December amid claims that Trump was using it for his personal and political benefit. The probe by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood alleges that the charity was “little more than a checkbook for payments from Mr. Trump or his businesses to nonprofits, regardless of their purpose or legality,” she said.
Trump has continued to denounce the lawsuit and defend his foundation, saying it’s “done great work and given away lots of money.”
Eric Trump lied about his foundation’s expenses.
A probe into spending by Eric Trump’s foundation, which came under investigation after Forbes reported in 2017 that he had shifted donations for children’s cancer research into the Trump family businesses, is ongoing. According to the report’s findings, the Trump third-born’s foundation raised $1.2 million for charity that went to the Trump Organization ― an action that experts say may have flouted federal tax rules and state laws. The report prompted the New York State Attorney General’s Office to launch a formal investigation that’s expected to plague the younger Trump into 2019.
Foreign diplomats kept staying in Trump-owned properties.
Two ongoing federal lawsuits allege that Trump may have violated the Constitution when lobbyists representing the Saudi government paid for around 500 nights at the president’s Washington, D.C., hotel shortly after he won the 2016 election. The more than $270,000 the Saudis spent may constitute improper payments from foreign governments, the lawsuits claim. The Washington Post uncovered details of the hotel stays earlier this month, reporting that the Saudi-backed lobbyists offered U.S. military veterans all-expenses-paid trips, including stays at the Trump hotel, to have them lobby before Congress against a law the Saudis opposed.
Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner stand to majorly benefit from a tax break.
Trump’s eldest daughter and her husband, Jared Kushner ― both official advisers to the president ― are still under fire for pushing a tax break that The Associated Press found earlier this month would benefit them financially. The so-called Opportunity Zone program offers sizable tax breaks to developers investing in a select group of struggling communities in the U.S. ― a number of which the couple already have large real estate stakes in. The findings shed further light on why their decision to become advisers to the president without divesting from their real estate holdings has created an ethics mess.
Ivanka Trump had trademarks approved by China.
The Chinese government granted Ivanka Trump more than a dozen new trademark approvals this year for her shuttered fashion brand, covering items ranging from handbags and shoes to voting machines and sausage casings. The news sparked claims that the Trump family had used its pull in government to smooth negotiations for the family business, even as the White House was doubling down on a trade war with China that affected American manufacturers.
Scott Pruitt and Ryan Zinke resigned amid scandals.
The exodus of Cabinet members from the Trump administration has continued in force this year, and many of the departing officials have left under a cloud of scrutiny due to investigations.
Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned in July amid more than a dozen federal investigations into his leadership at the agency, including allegations of spending abuses and friendliness with energy lobbyists. Pruitt was instrumental in Trump’s initial efforts to roll back many of the nation’s premier environmental regulations and his announcement of U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement.
Facing nearly 20 federal investigations, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was also forced out in December amid accusations that he billed taxpayers for private charter flights and traveled on an oil company’s jet without proper approval. Criticism has also surrounded Zinke’s ties to a real estate deal in Montana that could result in federal charges.
Jared Kushner got bailed out by a company linked to Qatar.
In May, media outlets reported that Kushner Companies, the real estate empire controlled by the family of Jared Kushner, was close to getting a bailout from a company linked to the government of Qatar. Critics said the deal raised new concerns about Kushner, who serves as the White House’s point person on Middle East issues, by entangling government and personal business. Kushner resigned as the CEO of his family’s company last year but still holds a financial stake in the business.
The company behind the bailout, Brookfield Asset Management, has said that “no Qatar-linked entity” was involved in the deal, finalized in August. Brookfield’s real estate arm is partially owned by the Qatar Investment Authority.
Trump has spent more than two months at Mar-a-Lago, and club members have bragged about it.
Trump spent 78 days at Mar-a-Lago, his private club in Florida, since he entered the White House, and he’s there so frequently that some members of the club have begun to brag about their purported influence on the president. ProPublica reported in August that the chairman of Marvel Entertainment, alongside two other Mar-a-Lago members, have been unofficially lobbying Trump on veterans affairs policy that could affect millions of Americans around the country.
The fabled club has only become more exclusive since Trump became president. The membership fee doubled to $200,000 last year, and events can cost upwards of $2,500 a couple. Some bills for parties have already been sent directly to taxpayers.
Melania Trump kept taking expensive trips.
First lady Melania Trump came under fire after her one-day trip to Cairo in October cost taxpayers more than $95,000. Her spokeswoman gave critics even more fodder by saying Trump didn’t even “stay the night” at the InterContinental Cairo Semiramis hotel and was only in the city for six hours. The first lady’s one-day visit to Toronto in 2017 also cost the government around $174,000 in hotel bills.
Cabinet secretaries have made some questionable investments.
Trump has one of the wealthiest Cabinets in modern history, and many secretaries have complex investment portfolios. Critics have been keeping a close eye on them to see if they’ve divested from any investments that could present a conflict of interest, but some have made questionable moves regardless.
Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross was found to have retained investments in companies co-owned by the Chinese government and to have connections to Russians linked to Vladimir Putin (claims Ross has denied). Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke was linked to a real estate deal with the energy giant Halliburton that led, in part, to his resignation this month. And the Education Department awarded a debt-collection contract to a company with ties to Education Secretary Betsy DeVos.