Donald Trump largely ran and won his campaign on a platform of economic revitalization for America with the big assertion that as a “successful” businessman and real estate tycoon, he would know firsthand how to solve America’s biggest financial problems and ensure steady growth throughout his four (and possible eight) years in office. The big selling point for many of his supporters was that Trump was a wealthy CEO and possessing a great savvy for the “Art of the Deal,” would be able to apply that knowledge to the country’s fiscal structure. But one big issue which has been frequently cited by news organizations preceding and following the election is the idea that Trump is still currently the head of a business empire and will continue to be throughout his presidency (despite claims that he will be shifting the responsibility to his children, even as he co-opts them for his West Wing advisory roles). This raises serious concerns about where Trump’s interests will ultimately lie as commander in chief, because while he will be leading our country for four years, he could also stand to make a profit from any policies he may enact. But an even more serious ethical dilemma is that on the flip side, any countries or corporations with business connections to the Trump empire might reasonably hope to use those ties and gain influence and power with American interests.
Case in point is the New York Times article published today entitled “Indian Business Partners Hope To Exploit Their Ties To Donald Trump.” The article explains in detail how real estate developers involved with Trump Towers Prune, two almost complete $2 million dollar luxury apartment towers in the city of Prune, India, hope to profit extensively off of Trump’s election as the value of the apartments will rise in the market with his ascension to presidency. Pranav R. Bhakta, a key business adviser to Trump in India, explained the valuation increase best here:
“To say, ‘I have a Trump flat or residence’ — it’s president-elect branded. It’s that recall value. If they didn’t know Trump before, they definitely know him now.”
Developers on the project like Atul Chordia and Sagar Chordia were reported to have engaged in a serious business meeting with Trump in New York just last week, although Atul downplayed it as a “‘two minute’ congratulatory conversation.” Sagar did affirm that they discussed future business endeavors and plans for more developments in the area.
The towers, pictured above from a Twitter image, are just one example of how Trump could easily use his newly elevated status to further his own interests, and how his partners could exploit that status to do the same. Robert S. Stern, a lawyer, explained that any time president-elect Trump were to meet with representatives from the many countries where his business interests lie, potential conflicts could arise:
“It already looks like he is using his position as president-elect to promote something in India that would benefit him financially. It is not presidential — or at least presidential before him.”
As a Washington Post article similarly reports, Turkey is not only a country rife with inner turmoil and conflicts with Western interests – it is also home to Trump Towers Istanbul. The owner of that apartment complex happens to be one of the wealthiest individuals in the country and also an avid supporter of Erdogan’s regime, a leader President Obama has condemned as anti-democratic, even as Turkey remains a NATO ally for the U.S. The question positioned here would be what would happen if Erdogan’s actions forced the U.S. to split those ties or distance themselves – would Trump be able to do that when potential business deals might be at stake? A former ethics lawyer for George W. Bush, Richard Painter, doesn’t seem to think so:
“If we’ve got to talk to a foreign government about their behavior, or negotiate a treaty, or some country asks us to send our troops in to defend someone else, we’ve got to make a decision. And the question becomes: Are we going in out of our national interest or because there’s a Trump casino around?”
All these questions will surely come to greater attention come January when Trump is officially sworn into office.