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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

Personal privileges become a constant theme for the Trump White House

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping

President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping at Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach, Fla., on April 7, 2017. Credit: AP/Alex Brandon

For more than two years, the election of a wealth-conscious real estate heir to the presidency has had a unique impact on the operations and politics of the White House.

Very special situations keep cropping up. This week ProPublica cited an interesting little example.

In April 2017, Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort billed taxpayers for a get-together of top government aides timed with a visit from Chinese President Xi Jinping, costing nearly $1,000 for top-shelf liquor. A memo said participants included Trump's then-strategist Steve Bannon and then-deputy Joe Hagin.

The Trump Organization also charged top rate for the staffers' $540-a-night hotel rooms.

A better-known overlap between Mar-a-Lago business and presidential trappings emerged last month when a 32-year-old Chinese national was arrested there March 30 after breaching security. Federal officials said it was the private staff that let her in.

While Trump rails continually against the criminal threat of illegal entry to the United States, his businesses haven't been immune to hiring the undocumented.

Among those employed illegally was Jose Gabriel Juarez from Mexico, who described to The Washington Post in a story published Tuesday how he was told to clock out from his job as head waiter at the Trump National Gold Club in Westchester County, and then work more hours without overtime.

“It was that way with all the managers: Many of them told us, ‘Just clock out and then stay and do the side work,’ ” Juarez said.

After lots of pre-inaugural discussion, Trump's status as a multimillionaire businessman was never separated clearly from his role as president.

For one thing he, like former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, departed from prior campaign practice by refusing to release copies of his tax returns. The refusal, at first explained with the unsupported claim that Trump was being "audited," grew firmer as he settled into public life and evidence surfaced of an old family tax-avoidance scheme.

This week, the ever-litigious Trump and three of his children filed suit in federal court, trying to keep two banks from responding to subpoenas from Congress, where Democrats are eyeing oversight questions raised by Trump finances.

Deutsche Bank loaned the Trump business a reported $2 billion over 20 years. Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen has testified that his ex-boss submitted inflated accounts of his wealth to the bank.

The harshest Trump critics see a constitutional issue in the president's dual public-private persona. On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan denied a motion by the president to dismiss a lawsuit filed by 198 members of Congress charging that Trump violated the "emoluments" clause, which bars federal officeholders from taking payments from foreign governments without legislative consent.

Even if the plaintiffs ultimately fail, the case could raise new issues along the way.

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