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Trump's business earnings decline as revenue at Mar-a Lago falls

US President Donald Trump appears to have earned less from his vast financial empire last year as licensing royalties, rents and golf revenues fell at some properties, his financial disclosure shows.

[NEW YORK] US President Donald Trump appears to have earned less from his vast financial empire last year as licensing royalties, rents and golf revenues fell at some properties, his financial disclosure shows.

Mr Trump's income was at least US$421.3 million, according to the document released Thursday by the Office of Government Ethics, down from US$452.6 million he reported the year before.

The disclosures, which provide incomes and the value of assets in broad ranges but aren't definitive figures, are the latest glimpse of the president's personal finances.

Business was slightly up at his namesake hotel in Washington. A short walk from the White House along Pennsylvania Avenue, it has become a magnet for Republicans, lobbyists, CEOs, foreign visitors and anyone else seeking to curry favor with a President who has chosen to maintain his business while in the White House.

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Revenue at the hotel rose 1 per cent to US$40.8 million, the disclosure shows.

Licensing royalties from several ventures including at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, fell last year as the President's politics increasingly appear to have dented Mr Trump's brand.

There were several new sources of income last year. Land sales in Virginia, the Dominican Republic and New York generated around US$7.4 million, the disclosure shows. And Mr Trump also received at least US$100,000 in rental income from his home in the Caribbean island of St Martin.

His properties in left-leaning states such as California and New York appear to have taken a hit. Revenue at his public golf course outside Los Angeles dipped while golf courses and properties in his home state also experienced revenue declines.

Even Florida, a state he won in 2016, appears to have cooled to the Trump brand. The Palm Beach resort Mar-a-Lago, where Trump often spends winter weekends, experienced a nearly 10 per cent drop in revenue to about US$23 million.

Revenue at his nearby golf course in Jupiter fell by about US$1 million, and the neighboring course in West Palm Beach also experienced a revenue dip. Those drops were larger than the US$1.2 million increase in revenue Mr Trump generated at his golf resort further south in the Miami suburb of Doral.

In Washington, where Mr Trump spends the majority of his time, business was brisk. His golf course in the suburbs and his hotel near the White House together recorded an additional US$1 million in revenue compared to 2017, according to Mr Trump's disclosure.

His golf courses in Scotland and Ireland also experienced revenue gains after years of recording losses.

Mr Trump's debt increased to at least US$315 million, the form shows, from US$311 million the previous year. A property purchased in Palm Beach, Florida, and financed by Professional Bank accounts for most of the increase.

His annual financial statement, required under federal ethics rules, provides the most complete look into the President's income and the financial performance of his closely held namesake business because he has refused to disclose his tax returns - reversing a four-decade precedent for White House candidates and presidents.

The broad dollar ranges can be misleading because Mr Trump's disclosures conflate revenue with income, but they represent the best approximation of how his presidency has affected the financial status of his businesses.

Last year presented several challenges to Mr Trump's bottom line. The Trump Organization abandoned an ambitious plan to launch a nationwide chain of mid-tier hotels and his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, implicated Mr Trump in an illegal hush-money scheme that landed Cohen in federal prison.

Mr Trump's financial disclosure comes as a rash of government investigations and lawsuits threaten the President's ability to maintain a business while in the White House.

Congressional Democrats have accused him of profiting off the presidency while some state attorneys general allege that he is violating the Constitution by allowing his businesses to sell goods and services to various governments.

"Our company had an exceptional 2018," said Eric Trump, the President's son and de facto leader of his family business.

"Our iconic hotels, golf courses, commercial buildings, residential projects and other assets are the best in the world and unrivaled by anyone."

Since Mr Trump took office, questions have swirled about the financial performance of the confederation of hotels, golf courses and licensing ventures that collectively form the Trump Organization.

For example, Trump Tower, the Manhattan landmark the President calls home, has seen a surge in commercial vacancies while condo owners in the building have been forced to sell their homes at inflation-adjusted losses.

He has had run-ins with the federal ethics office over his disclosures. In May 2017, David Apol, then acting director of OGE, faulted Mr Trump for not reporting a debt owed to Cohen. The US$130,000 debt, incurred from payments Cohen arranged to Stephanie Clifford, an adult entertainer who goes by the stage name Stormy Daniels, was reported as a footnote on the disclosure Mr Trump filed in 2018.

Mr Trump broke with the practice of previous presidents who either divested assets that could cause conflicts of interest or put those assets in blind trusts.

Instead, Mr Trump transferred his assets to a revocable trust administered by his elder son, Donald Trump Jr, and Allen Weisselberg, the chief financial officer of the Trump Organization. Walter Shaub, then the director of OGE, publicly criticised Mr Trump's decision.