The real estate company started by Donald Trump and run by his two adult sons complained bitterly on Friday about a news story that charged them with hiding profits from foreign governments that rent condominiums in a New York City building that bears their famous last name.
Reuters reported Thursday that the State Department 'allowed at least seven foreign governments to rent luxury condominiums in New York's Trump World Tower in 2017 without approval from Congress.' The 72-story building, adjacent to the United Nations, routinely houses diplomats.
The roughly 1,600-word article concluded that the leases could represent presidential violations of the U.S. Constitution's 'emoluments clause,' which bars government officials from accepting payments from foreign governments unless Congress consents first.
'We wouldn't know, nor should we, if someone is renting or who it is that's renting,' Trump said in a phone call.
Asked if he or the company would know if Vladimir Putin were personally renting a condo in the building, he replied: 'Nope.'
'None of the units we have any ownership stake in. Not one. And this is why it's so unfair,' he said.
Trump said Friday that his family business gets 'a flat fee every year from each [condominium] owner for managing the building,' but emphasized that 'we're not getting paid by the renter. We're getting paid by the owner.'
He likened the condo fee agreements to contracts that many suburban families sign with homeowners associations, requiring regular payments to cover trash and recycling pickup, street sweeping and snow plowing.
'Imagine if you had your house – if you wanted to rent it to somebody, you could rent it to anyone you want. It's a private transaction. You don't have to tell your neighbors or a homeowners association or anyone else who's renting it,' he said.
He also said the Trump Organization 'disgorges' all its profits from transactions with foreign governments by writing an annual check to the U.S. Treasury.
This year's donation, representing profits in 2018, was a February 20 payment of $191,538, up from $151,470 during the previous year.
The company has showed DailyMail.com copies of the checks for both years, signed by Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr., which Eric Trump said covered 'any profits we can pinpoint' related to hotels, residential buildings and all of its other real estate projects worldwide.
The Trump Organization has not described any third-party auditing related to those yearly searches for constitutionally problematic earnings.
That claim disappeared from the story around midnight Thursday.
Trump Organization attorney Alan Garten told Reuters after its story first appeared online that it was 'inaccurate' and 'misleading,' saying that the owners of Trump World Tower's condos also collectively own the building itself.
Reuters cited '[s]ix legal experts' who said that if the Trump Organization collected income from owners of condo units whose