Ethics watchdogs are raising red flags over Donald Trump Jr.’s latest real estate promo.
Don Jr., who runs the Trump Organization along with his brother Eric, is in India this week as a keynote speaker for a business conference alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New Delhi—and to sell Trump-branded luxury apartments. Critics are worried this presents an ethical conflict.
“Trump has arrived. Have you?” reads an ad that’s been printed across India’s major newspapers in recent days ahead of Don Jr.’s arrival Monday.
The Trump Organization has five projects in India, the most the company has in the works anywhere outside the U.S. The ad promises buyers who lock down a spot in the luxury towers coming to Gurgaon, a city outside New Delhi, by Thursday will get a “conversation and dinner” with the president’s son.
Ethics watchdogs worry this could amount to buying access to the president.
"They are auctioning off access to the first family in a foreign land," Norman Eisen, chair of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, told CNN on Monday. "What is to stop a foreign national with interests before the U.S. government from asking Don Junior to raise some issue or concern with his father?”
Trump Jr. is set to speak later this week at the Global Business Summit in New Delhi, where he will share a stage alongside Modi. He’s not there in any official capacity representing the United States, but he has a top billing among the speakers: He’s second to Modi, and ahead of the CEOs and founders of Netflix, Uber, and Apple. And judging from the title of his speech — "Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties : The New Era of Cooperation" — it sure sounds like it's going to be about U.S. foreign policy with the country.
He’s also expected to visit other Trump projects and schmooze customers and developers in Kolkata and Mumbai.
It’s not the first time the first family has come under fire for their business ties. Special counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly investigating presidential adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner’s efforts to secure foreign financing for real estate projects during the presidential transition. In April, ethics watchers rang alarm bells after Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, secured patent applications for her apparel brand in China the same day she met Chinese President Xi Jinping.
President Trump himself, whose assets were put in a trust after he took office, is reportedly still involved in the management of his flagship hotel in Washington, D.C., which regularly draws high-paying delegations from foreign nations. ProPublica reported in April that under the corporate structure of the trust, the president is still able to siphon out profits from his businesses.
Cover image: Donald Trump Jr. poses for photographers during a photo call in New Delhi, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018. (AP Photo/Manish Swarup)