President Donald Trump has grown bolder about promoting his personal business from the White House -- and a team of investigative reporters pledged to uncover even more about his private financial entanglements.
The president's personal business could expose Trump to private pressure -- in the form of underperforming properties or debts coming due -- that could be relieved through his official duties, and the Washington Post intends to find out where he's vulnerable.
"Among the things we learned in 2019: Some of the Trump Organization’s key properties are struggling. The company’s brand has become toxic to an array of customers. The company has pushed out dozens of undocumented workers it was employing. And lawsuits surrounding Trump’s possible conflicts of interests are piling up," wrote reporters David Fahrenthold,
Joshua Partlow and Jonathan O'Connell.
The journalists posed five questions they want to answer this year.
1. Will the Trump Organization continue hiring undocumented immigrants?
Trump the politician rails against illegal immigration, but his businesses have employed undocumented workers for years -- until many of them were fired recently after their status was exposed.
"Eliminating these workers from the payroll could mean the company has to increase salaries or offer more benefits to attract replacements who are legal to work," the reporters noted. "That, in turn, could further strain the company’s finances. How the Trump Organization moves past revelations about its undocumented workforce will be key in 2020."
2. What's the financial status of Trump's businesses?
At least three Trump properties in Miami, Chicago and Washington are saddled with more than $300 million in debt, according to annual financial disclosures, and the president's attorneys blame the steep losses on politics.
Other Trump properties -- including Mar-A-Lago and his New York City golf course -- are also losing money, and some of his residential towers are removing the president's name -- and the Trump Organization is even considering selling off his Washington, D.C., hotel's lease.
3. Will Trump Organization sell off its assets?
The company had intended to stop large-scale deals and focus on customer-oriented businesses during the Trump presidency, but that doesn't seem to be working out.
Trump Organization is making preparations to sell vacation homes in Ireland and Scotland, and the company is reportedly asking $500 million for the Trump hotel in D.C. -- which presents new risks of conflict of interests.
4. Will Trump distance himself from the company, or get even more involved in promoting it?
The president awarded the contract to host next year's Group of Seven summit at his struggling Trump National Doral Miami, which would have dumped federal money into the property, but the plan was canceled after Republican lawmakers objected.
But he's taken many smaller steps to promote his businesses, by attending GOP fundraisers at them or promoting them on his Twitter account.
5. Will others continue trying to win Trump's approval by spending money at his businesses?
The Post has reported on “VIP Arrivals” logs at Trump's hotel in D.C., which showed business executives seeking administration approval poured money into the president's hotel.
Those guests included T-Mobile’s top executives, including CEO John Legere, and Nahro al-Kasnazan, a wealthy Iraqi who wants the U.S. to challenge Iran's influence.