Trump Firm Asked Panama President to Intervene in Dispute

Move is clear example of conflict of interest, experts say
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 10, 2018 12:43 AM CDT
This photo shows a scanned copy of page one of a three-page letter dated March 22, 2018, and addressed to Panama's President Juan Carlos Varela from lawyers representing President Trump's family hotel...   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – President Trump's company appealed directly to Panama's president to intervene in its fight over control of a luxury hotel, even invoking a treaty between the two countries, in what ethics experts say was a blatant mingling of Trump's business and government interests. That appeal in a letter last month from lawyers for the Trump Organization to Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela was apparently unsuccessful—an emergency arbitrator days later declined to reinstate the Trump management team to the waterfront hotel in Panama City. But it provides hard proof of the kind of conflict experts feared when Trump refused to divest from a sprawling empire that includes hotels, golf courses, licensing deals, and other interests in more than 20 countries, the AP reports.

In the March 22 letter to Varela, a copy of which was obtained by the AP, lawyers for the Trump Organization "URGENTLY" request the Panamanian leader's influence to help reverse the company's acrimonious eviction as managers of the 70-story luxury high-rise once known as the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower. While never mentioning Trump or his role as president, the letter says lawyers representing the Trump Organization were aware of "the separation of powers" in Panama but essentially asks the country's president to intervene in the judicial process anyway. It goes on to say that the eviction violates an investment treaty signed by the two countries and suggests that the Panamanian government, not the hotel's new management team, could be blamed for any wrongdoing. (Read more Panama stories.)

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