The Democrats on the House Oversight Committee today released a 156-page report showing that when he was in the presidency, Trump received at least $7.8 million from 20 different governments, including those of China, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, and Malaysia, through businesses he owned.
The Democrats brought receipts.
According to the report—and the documents from Trump's former accounting firm Mazars that are attached to it—the People's Republic of China and companies substantially controlled by the PRC government paid at least $5,572,548 to Trump-owned properties while Trump was in office; Saudi Arabia paid at least $615,422; Qatar paid at least $465,744; Kuwait paid at least $300,000; India paid at least $282,764; Malaysia paid at least $248,962; Afghanistan paid at least $154,750; the Philippines paid at least $74,810; the United Arab Emirates paid at least $65,225. The list went on and on.
The committee Democrats explained that these payments were likely only a fraction of the actual money exchanged, since they cover only four of more than 500 entities Trump owned at the time. When the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in January 2023, Oversight Committee chair James Comer (R-KY) stopped the investigation before Mazars had produced the documents the committee had asked for when Democrats were in charge of it. Those records included documents relating to Russia, South Korea, South Africa, and Brazil.
Trump fought hard against the production of these documents, dragging out the court fight until September 2022. The committee worked on them for just four months before voters put Republicans in charge of the House and the investigation stopped.
These are the first hard numbers that show how foreign governments funneled money to the president while policies involving their countries were in front of him. The report notes, for example, that Trump refused to impose sanctions on Chinese banks that were helping the North Korean government; one of those banks was paying him close to $2 million in rent annually for commercial office space in Trump Tower.
The first article of the U.S. Constitution reads: "[N]o Person holding any Office of Profit or Trust under [the United States], shall, without the Consent of the Congress, accept of any present, Emolument [that is, salary, fee, or profit], Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State."
The report also contrasted powerfully with the attempt of Republicans on the Oversight Committee, led by Comer, to argue that Democratic Joe Biden has corruptly profited from the presidency.
In the Washington Post on December 26, 2023, Philip Bump noted that just after voters elected a Republican majority, Comer told the Washington Post that as soon as he was in charge of the Oversight Committee, he would use his power to "determine if this president and this White House are compromised because of the millions of dollars that his family has received from our adversaries in China, Russia and Ukraine."
For the past year, while he and the committee have made a number of highly misleading statements to make it sound as if there are Biden family businesses involving the president (there are not) and the president was involved in them (he was not), their claims were never backed by any evidence. Bump noted in a piece on December 14, 2023, for example, that Comer told Fox News Channel personality Maria Bartiromo that "the Bidens" have "taken in" more than $24 million. In fact, Bump explained, Biden's son Hunter and his business partners did receive such payments, but most of the money went to the business partners. About $7.5 million of it went to Hunter Biden. There is no evidence that any of it went to Joe Biden.
All of the committee's claims have similar reality checks. Jonathan Yerushalmy of The Guardian wrote that after nearly 40,000 pages of bank records and dozens of hours of testimony, "no evidence has emerged that Biden acted corruptly or accepted bribes in his current or previous role."
Still, the constant hyping of their claims on right-wing media led then–House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to authorize an impeachment inquiry in mid-September, and in mid-December, Republicans in the House formalized the inquiry.
There is more behind the attack on Biden than simply trying to even the score between him and Trump—who remains angry at his impeachments and has demanded Republicans retaliate—or to smear Biden through an "investigation," which has been a standard technique of the Republicans since the mid-1990s.
Claiming that Biden is as corrupt as Trump undermines faith in our democracy. After all, if everyone is a crook, why does it matter which one is in office? And what makes American democracy any different from the authoritarian systems of Russia or Hungary or Venezuela, where leaders grab what they can for themselves and their followers?
Democracies are different from authoritarian governments because they have laws to prevent the corruption in which it appears Trump engaged. The fact that Republicans refuse to hold their own party members accountable to those laws while smearing their opponents says far more about them than it does about the nature of democracy.
It does, though, highlight that our democracy is in danger.