The Slatest

Today’s Impeach-O-Meter: Trump Accused of Laundering Money Through Pediatric Cancer Charity

Donald Trump and Eric Trump (right) after the elder Trump was inaugurated as president on Jan. 20 in Washington.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

In the tradition of the Clintonometer and the Trump Apocalypse Watch, the Impeach-O-Meter is a wildly subjective and speculative daily estimate of the likelihood that Donald Trump leaves office before his term ends, whether by being impeached (and convicted) or by resigning under threat of same.

Building on the earlier work of the AP, Forbes published a piece today about money that the Eric Trump Foundation (which funds pediatric cancer research) paid to the Trump Organization (in which Eric Trump and his father have a personal financial stake, obviously) for use of golf facilities during fundraisers. By my reading, there are three particularly noteworthy revelations in the Forbes piece:

1. Donald Trump, it says, personally demanded that his Trump National Westchester golf course begin charging his son’s foundation for use of facilities that it had previously been allowed to use for free during its annual one-day golf/dinner fundraiser:

“In the early years, they weren’t being billed [for the club]—the bills would just disappear,” says Ian Gillule, who served as membership and marketing director at Trump National Westchester during two stints from 2006 to 2015 and witnessed how Donald Trump reacted to the tournament’s economics. “Mr. Trump had a cow. He flipped. He was like, ‘We’re donating all of this stuff, and there’s no paper trail? No credit?’ And he went nuts. He said, ‘I don’t care if it’s my son or not—everybody gets billed.’”

2. The amounts that the Trump Organization billed the Eric Trump Foundation for one-day use of its course and club—in 2015, Eric Trump’s charity paid his father’s business $322,000 for the event—appear to be much higher than what a typical one-day tournament/fundraiser at a fancy golf course would cost. Forbes:

It’s hard to find an explanation for this cost spike … Even if the Eric Trump Foundation had to pay the full rate for literally everything, Forbes couldn’t come up with a plausible path to $322,000 given the parameters of the annual event (a golf outing for about 200 and dinner for perhaps 400 more). Neither could golf tournament experts or the former head golf professional at Trump National Westchester. “If you gave me that much money to run a tournament, I couldn’t imagine what we could do,” says Patrick Langan, who worked at the club from 2006 to 2015. “It certainly wasn’t done that way.”

Indeed, if you paid full freight for each of 200 golfers at Trump’s course (let’s say $300 per person, including caddy tip) and then threw a 400-person dinner event at a cost of $500 per guest (which would be more than double the average per-person cost of a full-on traditional wedding), you’d still need to spend another $60,000 to pay as much as the Eric Trump Foundation paid Eric Trump’s family business to use its golf course in 2015.

3. Meanwhile, the Donald J. Trump Foundation—which also raised money from people who ostensibly thought they were donating to charity—appears to have given $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation which was then paid to the private, for-profit Trump Organization:

The Donald J. Trump Foundation donated $100,000 to the Eric Trump Foundation—a gift explicitly made, according to Gillule, to offset the increased budget [of the annual fundraiser] … That $100,000 in outside donations to the Donald J. Trump Foundation (remember: Trump himself didn’t give to his own foundation at this time) passed through the Eric Trump Foundation—and wound up in the coffers of Donald Trump’s private businesses.

As we learned from prior coverage of the president’s foundation, there are laws against using charity money for your own personal benefit. If Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation looks into this matter and finds it to constitute criminal behavior, and Democrats retake Congress, one imagines that “Trump skimmed money from a cancer charity” would be the kind of thing they’d bring up often during impeachment discussions, even if it might not be included in actual articles of impeachment because it doesn’t involve Trump’s public office and happened before he became president. But because of all the “ands,” “ifs,” and “evens” in those preceding sentences, we’ll leave today’s likelihood at 40 percent.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.

Photo illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo. Photos by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Win McNamee/Getty Images, Chris Kleponis-Pool/Getty Images, Drew Angerer/Getty Images, and Peter Parks-Pool/Getty Images.