According to USA Today, President Donald Trump's companies sold over $35 million in real estate last year, primarily to shell companies hiding the identities of buyers.
This method of doing business increased greatly following Trump's presidential victory.
The trend toward Trump's real estate buyers obscuring their identities began around the time he won the Republican nomination, midway through 2016, according to USA TODAY's analysis of every domestic real estate sale by one of his companies.
In the two years before the nomination, 4% of Trump buyers utilized the tactic. In the year after, the rate skyrocketed to about 70%. USA TODAY's tracking of sales shows the trend held firm through Trump's first year in office.
Trump has appointed attorney Bobby Burchfield to vet new real estate deals and ensure none run contrary to ethics concerns.
[H]e says a four-part test is used when evaluating deals: is it at fair market value or in the ordinary course of business; is it an appropriate counterparty; is there any indication the deal is intended to curry favor with the president and is there any likelihood the deal could compromise or diminish the Office of the President.
Not everyone is put at ease by this arrangement. Ross Delston, a Washington DC attorney specializing in anti-money laundering compliance, said the review criteria are highly subjective:
“From what we know of the Trump Organization’s past real estate deals is they never see deals they don’t like,” Delston said. “Having an ethics advisor shut down a deal based on a test not mandated by law strikes me as somewhere between unlikely to unthinkable.”