By Dan Merica
WASHINGTON (CNN) — President Donald Trump pledged during the campaign that he would divorce himself from the day-to-day operations of his businesses. And, it appears, he has done that.
But for six consecutive weekends during his first two months in office, the President has spent time at properties that bear his name — including a visit Saturday to the Trump National Golf Club in Sterling, Virginia, for meetings.
The visits are not out of the norm for the President, who was known to regularly frequent his holdings when he was a private citizen. And they don’t violate the promises Trump made about not having a hand in the operation of his old business. But the constant visits as President do blur the lines between Trump’s responsibilities as commander-in-chief and his ability to benefit — both directly and indirectly – his family’s empire of hotels, golf courses and apartment buildings.
Each visit Trump makes to one of his hotels or golf courses serves as an invaluable product placement opportunity for a business whose bottom line, in the end, benefits the President and his family. And it was this sort of issue that ethics watchdogs worried about when Trump announced in January that he would hand his holdings over to his family but not sell his properties.
“My two sons, who are right here, Don and Eric, are going to be running the company,” Trump said, referring to his sons Eric and Don Jr. who are now in control of the Trump Organization. “They are going to be running it in a very professional manner. They’re not going to discuss it with me.”
Trump’s first two weekends in the White House were free of visits to his properties. But since February 4, Trump has visited one of his properties for six straight.
On February 4 and 5, while in Florida, Trump golfed at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida. The next weekend, on February 11 and 12, Trump brought Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to his estate in Florida and golfed at both the Trump International Golf Club and the Trump National Golf Club in Jupiter, Florida. Again, on February 18 and 19, Trump visited the Trump International Golf Club.
After three weekends in Florida, Trump stayed in Washington, D.C. the following weekend. But that didn’t keep him from visiting one of his properties. Trump had dinner with Florida Gov. Rick Scott, former U.K. Independence Party leader Nigel Farage and members of his family at the Trump International Hotel Washington on February 25.
Trump was back in Florida the following weekend, where he visited the Trump International Golf Club on March 4 and 5.
Ethics watchdogs, like Walter M. Shaub Jr., the head of the Office of Government Ethics, worried that while Trump was splitting himself from his holdings, he would still be able to drive business.
“His sons are still running the businesses, and of course, he knows what he owns,” Schaub said during a much-talked about speech on Trump’s ethics questions. “Common sense dictates that a President can, of course, have very real conflicts of interest,” he added.
Most businesses not run by the President’s family clamor for a presidential visit and have been known to boast about them for years in an effort to spur residual business. In fact, some business, primarily those in Washington, have been known to lobby the White House for a presidential visit.
Multiple White House spokespeople did not respond immediately for comment on this story.