Over the course of the last year, the term “Trump” was the most popular terms in .com domains (# 2 in .net domains), according to Verisign’s 2016 year-end report. And just a year later, President Trump caused internet upheaval again when one of his tweets contained the typo “covfefe”. Quickly after the tweet was posted, many domain variants were registered around this wildly confusing term including covfefe.de, covfefe.country, covfefe.pink, covfefe.review or covfefe.vision. Even typo versions like cofveve.com and cofveve.de have already been registered. It’s still unknown what the owners of these addresses have in mind – one possibility is selling them – but it is questionable who would buy these domains.
It is clear the Trump organization has built up an extensive domain portfolio around Donald Trump both the businessman and the prominent yet sometimes polarizing political figure. According to a report by Politico, a popular online magazine for political culture, the organization has renewed or reclaimed hundreds of domain names.
At this time it’s difficult to determine whether the names in the portfolio have been registered for purely defensive reasons, or whether concrete business plans will be implemented using these domains. However, one thing is certain: the organization has been thorough in securing all variants of playwithdonald.com to trumpvodkasucks.com.
And though the inauguration has passed, the registrations have not stopped.
Three weeks before Donald Trump officially accepted the Republican nomination last year, the Trump Organization renewed licenses on hundreds of new domain names for business ventures at home and around the world—including CelebrityApprenticePoker.com, TrumpForeclosureInvesting.com and TrumpTowerMoscow.com. The re-registration of domain names continued after Trump’s inauguration, with hundreds of sites kept for potential new businesses in Ireland, the United Arab Emirates, China, India and Indonesia once he was already in the Oval Office. Three weeks before Trump hosted Chinese President Xi Jinping at his Mar-a-Lago club in South Florida, the Trump Organization renewed its licenses for MarALagoClubAsia.com and theMarALagoClub.Asia.
Publicly available internet directory records analyzed by POLITICO from the domain registration database website WhoIs.com show thousands of sites registered by the Trump Organization’s general counsel, with many for existing Trump businesses, including some that have since been shuttered, but many that instead direct to holding pages.
They appear to provide a road map for ventures the president’s company has been considering, though some are in places that are now trouble spots for his presidency: TrumpRussia.com and TrumpUkraine.com were both renewed on June 29, 2016, while DonaldJTrumpSignatureCollectionVenezuela.com, TrumpApparelVenezuela.com, TrumpClothingVenezuela.com, TrumpHomeBathVenezuela.com, TrumpBeddingVenezuela.com and TrumpHomeAccessoriesVenezuela.com were updated on Oct. 14, 2016.
Trump has always been ambitious to expand, and his interest in building a Trump Tower in Moscow dates back at least as far as a visit to the Russian capital in 1996, during which he said he’d like to build a replica of his signature Fifth Avenue skyscraper there. While registration for TrumpTowerMoscow.com was renewed as recently as June 29, 2016, there do not appear to be any short-term plans to move forward on such a project, especially given that Trump is facing multiple investigations into whether his campaign colluded with the Kremlin ahead of the election. Currently, TrumpTowerMoscow.com, like most of the domains registered by the Trump Organization that aren’t active businesses, goes to a standard GoDaddy landing page.
Eric Goldman, a professor at the Santa Clara Law School and director of its High Tech Law Institute who’s written about corporate use of domain registration, said the Trump Organization’s activity could represent “very long-range planning or preemptive registration.”
Goldman said most companies tend to use holding companies or individuals for this kind of activity, which would be harder to track. Given the relatively minimal costs of buying hundreds of thousands of domain names at once, many companies also use automated systems which buy up thousands of variations on names, as well as all of them as .com, .info, .net and more.
The Trump Organization does not appear to have done either: a smaller, directed set of names can be traced back directly to its general counsel.
“It could be because the company’s thinking about moving in a particular direction and it wants to make sure it had had the domain name space to expand,” Goldman said, “or it can be to preempt a squatter, to avoid something else taking the domain name.”
Some of the registration renewals are perplexing. The president’s company renewed 79 site name variations of Trump University first registered from 2007 to 2009, from TrumpUHartford.com, TrumpUniversityTN.com to TrumpUniversityWealthBuilding.com, though Trump University had officially been shuttered in 2010 and was by last summer deep in the lawsuit that ultimately led to the president’s decision to settle for $25 million after being elected.
There are sites for 32 different Trump Tower ventures around the world, some of them built, and some of them not previously public, like TrumpTowerRome.com, TrumpTowerLondon.com and TrumpTowerBangkok.com, with apparent ambition for further expansion in both China and India.
Trump said during the transition that he was voluntarily turning over all management of his company to his two older sons, and they have said that they would not start any new overseas ventures while he is in the White House—but no proof has been provided that either is happening.
Trump also pledged during the transition that he would donate all profits to his businesses from foreigners to the Treasury Department. He never provided a structure for that, and earlier this month, his Justice Department argued in court that he can accept money from foreign governments.
Without information about what business ventures the privately held Trump Organization is continuing to pursue or the tax returns that the president is refusing to release, there’s no way to know to what extent his company is continuing to pursue projects. His financial disclosure released earlier this month indicated that he had resigned from official leadership of his corporations.
Bruce Boyden, an associate law professor at Marquette University who teaches copyright and internet law, said the Trump Organization reserving a domain name related to a possible business venture is not itself a signal that the company is actually pursuing it.
“Even if companies don’t have firm plans or even vague plans” to start a particular project, Boyden said, “they might just want to keep their options open.”
Most of the websites came up for renewal at the end of June 2016, when Trump had secured the Republican nomination but was still considered a long shot to win—a sentiment shared by the candidate himself and most of the people working on his campaign.
White House press secretary Sean Spicer did not respond to an email with questions about the domain registrations, if the president keeps his decisions on policy areas like Russia independent from interest in potential future projects like TrumpTowerMoscow.com, or if he has separated from decisions about pursuing them. Representatives from the Trump Organization did not respond to separate questions about why all the domain names were re-registered after Trump secured the nomination, if the company is pursuing these projects, or whether the domains’ registrations will be renewed again now that Trump is in the White House.
With many of the sites up for renewal at the end of June, it could be telling to see which domains the company chooses to refresh while Trump is in the Oval Office and combating criticism about conflicts of interest. Already since the inauguration, the Trump Organization decided not to renew about 100 sites it had registered, including IvankaTrumpWindows.info, IvankaPillows.org, EricTrumpFoundation.com and TrumpRent.com.
But as of now, the rest remain Trump Organization property, from TrumpBloodyMary.com and TrumpSparklingWine.com to TrumpHomeBeddingBolivia.com.