A few weeks before taking office, then-President-Elect Donald Trump held court at a press conference in Manhattan to address questions about his conflicts of interest. With a giant stack of papers stacked artfully to signal legal documents beside him onstage, he explained that he would step down from the day-to-day operations of the Trump Organization, hand over the keys to his adult sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and pay the business no mind until he returns. “I hope at the end of eight years I’ll come back and say, ‘Oh, you did a good job,’” he said. “Otherwise, if they do a bad job, I’ll say, ‘You’re fired.’ ” Trump’s tax attorney, dispatched to detail the particulars, told reporters that the Trump Organization would appoint ethics advisers, avoid foreign deals while Trump is in office, and donate profits from foreign officials staying at his hotels to the U.S. Treasury.
These measures were meant to avoid the appearance of conflicting interests once Trump took office, though they did little to satisfy ethics experts, since the president continues to own a vast array of hotels, resorts, golf courses, real estate holdings, and licensing deals around the world. His children, to whom he is very close, stand to benefit from anyone looking to curry favor with the White House, too.
Trump has argued that he doesn’t care about the business anymore, now that he has the fate of the free world on his shoulders. He has opted to forgo his salary as president, too, since the billionaire (if you take him at his word, though he has not released his tax returns) can manage just fine without it.
But just five days since taking up residence in the White House, Trump is already managing to make money off his new gig. According to a report from CNBC, Mar-a-Lago, the sweeping Palm Beach resort owned by the Trump Organization, doubled its initiation fee on January 1, three weeks before Trump’s inauguration. The “Winter White House” now charges $200,000 to join, plus tax and $14,000 in annual dues, a massive increase that went into effect just hours after Trump spent the night there with his family, shaking hands and enjoying his last days there as a private citizen, for its New Year’s Eve party. Sources told the network that Mar-a-Lago, which last raised prices in 2012, had been considering a price hike for some time.