The Trump World Tower in New York City. It is one of the highest and most expensive residential houses in the world and located on First Avenue between the 47th and 48th streets of Manhattan. First Ave, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA Date: Septemb | usage worldwide (Newscom TagID: dpaphotostwo745296.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

Foreign diplomats leased condos in Trump-owned buildings, documents show

Foreign diplomats leased condos in Trump-owned buildings. The Trump World Tower in New York City. It is one of the highest and most expensive residential houses in the world and located on First Avenue between the 47th and 48th streets of Manhattan. First Ave, Manhattan, New York City, New York, USA Date: Septemb | usage worldwide (Newscom TagID: dpaphotostwo745296.jpg) [Photo via Newscom]

(CNN)Across the street from the United Nations complex, nestled between embassies and foreign missions, sits a luxurious condominium skyscraper — designed, according to its website, with “virtuosity and grandeur” — that catches the eye of foreign diplomats.It’s Trump World Tower, and foreign governments have requested US government permission to house their diplomats there on at least 17 occasions since 2015, according to State Department records. At least 10 of those requests have been made to the State Department since President Donald Trump took office, the records show.The requests, required for national security reasons, weren’t unusual — but it’s impossible to know whether foreign governments were interested in the building because of its prime location, or because renting there would allow diplomats to possibly ingratiate themselves with Trump or members of his administration.

Foreign diplomats leased condos in Trump-owned buildings.

The President has taken the unprecedented step of refusing to divest from his businesses while in office, instead handing them over to his adult sons to manage, and he has also fought against the release of his tax returns, leaving the public with a spotty picture of his financial interests.But the condo issue highlights the extent to which Trump’s decision to retain his interests leaves almost every aspect of the businesses open to question.The condos are individually owned, so proceeds from a sale or rental do not flow to the President and his companies when the units change hands or are rented. The Trump Organization does manage the building and collects regular fees from condo owners.

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But the Trump World Tower building bears the Trump name in bold, shiny lettering — a clear part of the building’s draw for some prospective tenants.The State Department documents, first reported Thursday by Reuters, identify only one of the countries — Malaysia — that requested US government permission to lease there, and do not say whether the State Department approved the requests.Reuters cited additional documents and sources when it reported on Thursday that US officials approved a Malaysian request, as well as requests from Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi

Foreign diplomats leased condos in Trump-owned buildings.

Arabia, Slovakia, Thailand and the European Union.The State Department referred questions from CNN to the Justice Department, which did not respond to a request for comment.The Trump Organization pushed back forcefully on the Reuters story, which reported the transactions could violate the Constitution’s emoluments clause.

Trump Organization General Counsel Alan Garten said that while Trump did once own a majority of units when developing the project, the building sold out nearly 20 years ago. Since that time, the building, like every other condominium, has been owned by third-party, individual unit owners and controlled by a board.House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings said the documents show the public needs more information “to understand how foreign governments may be attempting to curry favor with the Administration.””The Committee has been attempting to obtain detailed information on this topic for years, but has been stonewalled,” Cummings said in a statement.

The document batch includes requests submitted between 2015 and 2017, and does not indicate whether additional requests have been submitted since then.The 17 requests are for residential space for diplomats and mission staffers. “The residence is in a residential building and will be used as the home of [redacted] during their stay in New York,” one document, which is generally similar to the others, reads.An 18th request, made in 2015, was to “continue to own” a storage unit at Trump World Tower, used “to store the personal property of” a diplomat living there, that request says.

Foreign diplomats leased condos in Trump-owned buildings.

Although Trump World Tower leases may not result in foreign government money flowing to Trump’s business, the question of whether Trump may benefit from foreign government payments through his other buildings and hotels is still being scrutinized. The legality of some of those payments is being tested in several lawsuits. At issue is whether Trump is violating the anti-corruption passages in the Constitution called the emoluments clauses.Trump lawyers argue that emoluments should be narrowly defined as gifts and that payments in exchange for services don’t constitute emoluments. But this week a federal judge overseeing one of the cases rebuked that claimallowing the case to proceed, and ruling in favor of Democratic members of Congress who sued the President over these payments and argue for a broader definition of the term. Judge Emmet Sullivan’s opinion empowers Congress as they seek more information about payments received by Trump’s family businesses and other business details.Earlier this year, the Trump Organization announced it would cancel domestic hotel deals because of what Trump’s son Eric Trump, who runs the company with his brother Don Jr., described as “harassment” and a toxic political climate.

Foreign diplomats leased condos in Trump-owned buildings.