As US Senators agreed their gargantuan rescue bill meant to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, Democratic Senate leader Chuck Schumer announced that his team had inserted a provision to prevent businesses owned by Donald Trump from receiving Treasury loans or investments.
In a letter to colleagues announcing that the bill had been agreed after days of intense negotiations, Mr Schumer wrote that the language in the as-yet-unreleased bill would “prohibit businesses controlled by the president, vice president, members of Congress, and heads of executive departments from receiving loans or investments from Treasury programmes.”
According to CNN’s Manu Raju, Mr Schumer’s office said the bill will go further still, confirming that “the children, spouses and in-laws of the aforementioned principals are also included in this prohibition.”
Mr Schumer lists the measure among an array of “significant improvements” Democrats have secured to the bill. They cover everything from obtaining billions of dollars of funds for Indian Health Services and eliminating a “$3bn bailout for big oil” to attaching “robust worker protections” to federal loans to businesses.
Six out of seven Trump-owned clubs and hotels are currently closed because of the coronavirus epidemic. The closures could deprive the Trump Organisation of millions of dollars in revenue. The president has also lately floated the prospect of a bailout for the hotel industry, in turn raising the possibility that taxpayers’ bailout money would go directly to him and his business empire.
At a White House press briefing on 22 March, Mr Trump was asked whether he would commit that no taxpayer money would go towards his properties. He replied with a long answer saying the bill was in such flux that no-one knew what was going on, and recounting how “nobody said thank you” when he declined to take his presidential salary or ruled out certain other business dealings.
“My company, I told the kids who are running it – I’m not running it – but I told them don’t deal with foreign companies, I didn’t have to do that at all … and instead of being thanked for – again, for not agreeing to do it, but for just not doing it – I get excoriated all the time. So I’ve learned, let’s just see what happens.”
Whether or not Mr Trump’s empire ends up benefiting from the coronavirus bailout, he hopes to benefit along with the country from what he expects to be an imminent return to economic form. He has lately said that social distancing requirements could be lifted in a matter of weeks and that the US economy will be “open for business” again by Easter.