Former Obama ethics chief says $500m Chinese support for Trump project ‘violates emoluments clause’

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A top ethics official in former President Barack Obama’s administration has accused President Donald Trump of violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause after it was disclosed that the Trump Organisation is involved in a project that has received up to $500 million in support from the Chinese government.

Norm Eisen tweeted Monday about the recent report, which showed that a Trump Organisation project in Indonesia is receiving the support — a deal that appears to run contrary to the promise from Mr Trump that his company would not pursue new foreign deals while he is president and could violate federal ethics laws.

“This is a violation of the Emoluments Clause,” Mr Eisen wrote, referring to ethics laws that forbid members of the federal government from receiving gifts from federal governments. “A big one. See you in court Mr Trump.”

The Chinese government is providing up to $500 million in government loans to support the construction of the billion-dollar MNC Lido City resort, which includes a Trump-branded hotel and golf course, according to a report from the South China Morning Post. Mr Trump’s involvement was solidified in 2015, the report states.

Former Bush administration ethics lawyer Richard Painter has also said that the project could violate the emoluments clause, and that he “would have advised” Mr Trump to sell all his holdings in the project upon becoming president.

The White House, when asked about the reports, has referred to the Trump Organisation.

“The Trump Organisation is involved in a project in Indonesia building hotels, golf courses, residences — it is getting up to $500 million in backing from the Chinese government,” Noah Bierman, a reporter with the Los Angeles Times said on Monday during the daily press briefing.

“Can you explain the administration’s position on A, how this doesn’t violate the emoluments clause; and B, how this wouldn’t violate the president’s own promise that his private organization would not be getting involved in new foreign deals while he was president?” Mr Bierman continued.

Deputy White House Press Secretary Raj Shah simply responded: “I’ll have to refer you to the Trump Organization.”

The Trump Organization, and the Trump 2020 campaign, did no immediately respond with requests for comment and clarification.