Donald Trump promised to "drain the swamp" when he ran in 2016—but Mar-a-Lago and other Trump properties have become their own swamp of lobbyists, business moguls, religious groups, and foreign politicians seeking his favor as they spend millions of dollars that he turns into profits, the New York Times reports. By itself this isn't big news, but the Times has dug up fresh details by analyzing Trump's federal tax returns and interviewing nearly 250 relevant players. Among the findings:
- $12 million: During Trump's first two years in office, his family business earned nearly $12 million from a mere 60 customers who brought interests before his administration. Almost all of them got something out of it.
- AAR Corp: Those victories included appointments, ambassadorships, laws, land, presidential directives, and tweets. For example, the aviation-services company AAR Corp. held events at Trump properties that a lobbyist admits were designed to gain Trump's favor—and AAR has received 10 new federal contracts worth $1.35 billion during his presidency.
- 'Fake people': Despite pledging to pull away from the Trump Organization as president, Trump kept a close eye over his properties. He joked that he should raise fees on the "fake people" joining Mar-a-Lago during his presidency, and he did—to $200,000 and then $250,000. He also kept up on club membership lists, according to two inside sources.
- Access: Paying customers often ran into Trump at his properties, because he spent roughly 25% of his days at his resorts and hotels. "People know and expect him to be at Mar-a-Lago, so they’ll bring a guest or come with a specific idea," says an ex-national security aide. "With that access, you could pitch your ideas."
- Evangelicals: Customers included evangelical ministers and other religious conservatives. Some told the Times that they became customers as a form of gratitude: "If we can support this president by having dinner or staying at the hotel, then we want to do that," says Dallas evangelist Sharon Bolan.
- Even the Serbs: Politicians from small nations saw this as a way to cull favor with the president—including Zeljka Cvijanovic, a Serb leader in Bosnia, who visited the Trump International Hotel in Washington. She even touted meeting "with the closest associates of the US president" in a press release that shows her at the hotel.
stories on Trump's tax returns look at his sobering losses
, his use of the Apprentice "myth,"
and his "highly unusual" windfall