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Trump defends making millions from foreign governments while president

Donald Trump indicated on Wednesday he planned to retain his stake in his businesses if he returned to the White House for a second term.

His comments came as he defended the millions of dollars his hotels made from foreign governments during his presidency.

“If I have a hotel and somebody comes in from China, that’s a small amount of money,” Mr Trump said at a Fox News town hall in response to questions about divesting from his companies if he wins a second term.

According to a report from Democrats on the House Oversight Committee, Mr Trump’s company took in at least $7.8m from foreign entities in 20 countries including China and Saudi Arabia, which critics said could violate a constitutional prohibition on accepting funding from foreign governments.

However, the former president defended his firm’s earnings saying he was “doing services for that”.

“People were staying in these massive hotels, these beautiful hotels, and they stayed there and they paid. I don’t get $8m for doing nothing,” he said, and added that America’s first president set the precedent by running his private businesses while in office.

“You know, George Washington was a very rich man, people don’t know that,” he said. “He had a business desk and he had a country desk, right next to each other. You are allowed to do that, I didn’t do it,” Mr Trump claimed. “I put everything in trust.”

He also attacked president Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, currently being prosecuted on federal tax charges of skipping out on paying the $1.4m he owed to the IRS.

“I don’t get $8m for nothing, like Hunter,” he said.

This is not the first time Mr Trump claimed that the first American president ran his private businesses during his tenure in office. He made a similar claim in 2019.

However, at the time Politifact found there existed “conflicting interpretations” of Washington’s business activities in the office. While “there’s no question that Mount Vernon, Washington’s plantation, was an ongoing business concern during his presidency”, however, there isn’t “solid documentation” to prove that he sold agricultural goods to governments or foreign entities, Josh Blackman, a law professor at the South Texas College of Law in Houston told the outlet.

Mr Trump’s town hall, counter-programming to a debate he spurned between his rivals for the nomination – former US ambassador to UN Nikki Haley and Florida governor Ron DeSantis – took place just hours after former New Jersey governor Chris Christie ended his bid.

He retains a commanding lead in the contest to be the party’s nominee against president Biden in the 5 November election, according to a nationwide Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Tuesday. The poll put him at 49 per cent, ahead of Ms Haley at 12 per cent and Mr DeSantis at 11 per cent.