Critics Raise Questions About Donald Trump Jr.'s Visit To India

Feb 20, 2018
Originally published on February 21, 2018 1:49 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The president's eldest son is on a trip to India that is raising some ethical concerns. Donald Trump Jr. is in New Delhi promoting the family's real estate projects in several Indian cities. While this is officially private business, he's also scheduled to deliver a foreign policy speech later in the week in an event that Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend. So does any of this sound like a conflict of interest? Let's talk to NPR's Julie McCarthy, NPR's New Delhi correspondent. Hi, Julie.

JULIE MCCARTHY, BYLINE: Hi, David.

GREENE: So let me start off by what exactly Trump Jr. is in India to sell?

MCCARTHY: Well, no less than a billion dollars in luxury residential (laughter) units. They're being built by Trump's local partners in India. Trump sells his brand, his name. Others do the building. And it's a week-long sales journey here. First stop will be Gurgaon, Delhi's sister city, where Donald Jr. will pitch for investors in the latest Trump Tower project. Glossy, full-page newspaper ads have hyped it, saying, Trump has arrived, have you? And they invite investors to book their apartments, and for the privilege, they join Donald Trump Jr. for a personal conversation and dinner. Now, watchdogs on ethics say, look, this is nothing short of selling access, and therein lies the potential for the conflict of interest.

GREENE: OK. Let's try and figure this out. You say investors are invited to join Donald Jr. for a personal conversation and dinner. I mean, what about business leaders? What about politicians? I mean, that's where you would start to get into the actual conflict of interest, right?

MCCARTHY: Well, conflicts of interest can also potentially affect U.S. foreign policy. If President Trump's investments head south here, does that affect U.S.-Indian relations? Would he be less inclined toward India? So those kinds of questions are raised by his investments and his son's trip to sell them. But certainly, the nexus that may exist between political parties and the Trump Organization has also raised eyebrows.

GREENE: Ok. So who exactly is trying to meet with him if the invitation is open this week?

MCCARTHY: Well, you've got business leaders from Delhi to Mumbai to Kolkata who want to meet and greet with the son of the president. He's promoting the Mumbai tower later, and it's this golden-latticed exterior, and he's opening up a demonstration unit there. And I've seen one of those showcase units, David, and I was quite surprised at how small it was. And presumably, the unit he's opening won't be small. Now, their partner there is this whole nexus question of the political contacts. It's a group called the Lodha Group, and the man who leads it happens to be the vice president of Modi's BJP party in the state of Maharashtra. And that nexus between Trump's organization and the BJP party is the thing that's raised eyebrows.

GREENE: Well, we're not just talking about Modi's party, right? I mean, Modi himself is going to be attending this foreign policy speech that Donald Jr. is giving.

MCCARTHY: Well, yes. The prime minister is going to be there, and it's hard to imagine that the two won't meet on this - what is supposed to be an unofficial visit to India. And that's about appearances. But there's also this issue of Donald Trump Jr., who has no government portfolio, delivering a policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations. David, this is a complex region. That's a very complex topic, and the United States is closely watched on what it says. It's easy to misstep and cause a political stir. In addition to this, the speech gives the trip a political cast, something that Donald Jr. said he wants to steer clear of.

GREENE: All right. The president's son visiting India, a trip that's raising a lot of questions. NPR's Julie McCarthy telling us all about it. We appreciate it, Julie.

MCCARTHY: Thank you, David.

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