Donald Trump failed to disclose a $19.8 million loan from a company with ties to North Korea while he was president, Forbes reported Sunday, citing documents uncovered by the New York attorney general’s office.
Trump owed the money to L/P Daewoo while he was campaigning in 2016 and into his presidency, according to records. He didn’t list the debt in financial disclosure filings, as candidates and presidents are expected to do, Forbes reported.
The loan was paid off just over five months into his presidency. Forbes said the documents don’t specify who satisfied it.
Daewoo is a South Korean conglomerate that partnered with Trump on a development project near the United Nations headquarters in New York City and on several other projects over the years. The company has ties to North Korea, Forbes reported, and was the only South Korean company allowed to operate a business in North Korea in the mid-1990s.
Trump may have skirted disclosure laws and not committed an outright violation because the loan was on the books of his company, the Trump Organization, and not identified as a personal loan, Forbes noted.
The debt would have sparked conflict of interest concerns over an American president’s indebtedness to a foreign operation vulnerable to influence by North Korea’s rogue government. Trump often gushed about his close relationship with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
Such loans are largely reported on an honor system because the U.S. Office of Government Ethics has neither the resources nor the power to delve into a president’s assets.
“If someone does not disclose a loan, OGE has no way to know,” said Walter Shaub, who ran that agency when Trump took office.
Don Fox, who once also headed the office, told Forbes:“The system is kind of predicated upon people actually following a law because they want to follow the law.”