Conflicts in the Philippines

Part 1

Trump is friends and business partners with the man the president of the Philippines has picked as his intermediary with the U.S.

Mr. Fuchs, who helped oversee United States relations with the Philippines as the deputy assistant secretary of state until early this year, said he was deeply troubled by Mr. Trump’s overlapping priorities, particularly given the long list of globally significant issues in play with the Philippines. These include planned joint military exercises in the South China Sea, the fight against militant Islamic groups based in the country’s southern islands, and the human rights abuses taking place.

“What we already have is a blurring of the lines between official and business activities,” Mr. Fuchs said. “The biggest gray area may not be a President Trump himself advocating for favors for the Trump Organization. It’s the diplomats and career officers who will feel the need to perhaps not do things that will harm the Trump Organization’s interests. It is seriously disturbing.”

This is the same concern stated over other potential conflicts. It doesn’t matter if the Trump Organization does not elicit favors, other companies or nations may act in the interest of the company anyway.

Quotes from NYT

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Conflicts in Turkey

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

As a candidate, Mr. Trump railed against moving American jobs overseas and promised to do something about it. As a businessman, he invested in a partnership with a furniture company here, making luxury furniture in the firm’s factory in western Anatolia and selling it in the United States and worldwide — a partnership that apparently remains active.

Mr. Trump the candidate inveighed against Muslims and threatened at least a temporary ban on their entering the United States. Mr. Trump the businessman has in recent years had some of his biggest expansions overseas, including in Muslim countries like Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and even Azerbaijan.

[…]

“We regret and condemn Trump’s discriminatory remarks,” Bulent Kural, the manager of the Trump Towers Mall, wrote in an email to a reporter at the time, as he announced that the mall was considering removing Mr. Trump’s name. “Such statements bear no value and are products of a mind that does not understand Islam, a peace religion, at all. Our reaction has been directly expressed to the Trump family. We are reviewing the legal dimension of our relation with the Trump brand.”

[…]

Mr. Trump’s next move helped re-establish his standing. After a failed coup in Turkey in July, he defended Mr. Erdogan’s crackdown on dissidents, saying in an interview with The Times that the United States has to “fix our own mess” before trying to alter the behavior of other nations.

[…]

In between his two remarks — one infuriating the president of Turkey, the other comforting him — the calls for the renaming of the Trump Towers Mall ended

So, Trump said something that pleased the president of Turkey and the push to remove his brand ended.

The recent post election telephone call between Mr. Trump and Mr. Erdogan suggests that business and political roles will continue to be mixed.

According to a Turkish journalist, Amberin Zaman, writing in the independent online news outlet Diken, Mr. Trump told the Turkish leader that he and his daughter — who participated in the call — admired both Mr. Erdogan and Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, Mr. Trump’s business associate in the towers, whom he called “a close friend.”

Jennifer Harris, who served on the staff of the National Intelligence Council and on the State Department’s policy planning staff, said the twin hats that Mr. Trump and his family would be wearing in Turkey would almost certainly complicate the jobs of American diplomats there.

“It makes me wonder if the Trump administration will use the power of the state to help political or business allies and hurt political adversaries and business rivals,” she said.

No need to summarize there, the bolded quote says it all.

All quotes from NYT

Conflicts in India

Continuing the NYT article, Part 1 and Part 2

This example, analysts here say, points to a potentially serious ethical hazard for a United States president who is also a real estate mogul in India, with five projects underway. Mr. Trump was operating much like other developers in India, who cozy up to politicians — officially or unofficially — to push projects through the bureaucracy.

Another international Trump project is under investigation. This one is for allegedly having a fraudulent permit.

The very nature of the country’s real estate business, however, underscores larger concerns about potential damage to American efforts to discourage corruption in business abroad.

[…]

It is so routine for developers to pay bribes at every step of the approval process that many bureaucrats have informal rate sheets showing exactly how much must be paid to each official.

[…]

Top officials might “think in some way the U.S. president will help them,” and “can put in a friendly word with the banks” to extend loans for around 8 percent interest, rather than the characteristic 15 percent, said Vikas S. Kasliwal, the chief executive officer and vice chairman of Shree Ram Urban Infrastructure.

[…]

“If the son goes himself, if the son is willing to go and meet the prime minister of India, or the urban development minister, that is a very big thing,” he said. “They will think the president is meeting them.”

The last quote there highlights the issue with the Trump children running the company. It would not remove the concern that other governments might bend the rules or give favors to the company, solely because of the Trump name.

Another issue is that some of his Indian business partners are politicians as well.

Suraj Hegde, the secretary of the All India Congress Committee, a national body of Indian National Congress party members, said he was troubled by the dual roles Mr. Trump and his family would play in Indian affairs — particularly given real estate’s important role in India’s fast-growing economy, and the clout the United States has on the world stage.

[…]

He added that he was already calling for an independent parliamentary investigation of such maneuvers, including Mr. Trump’s real estate ventures in India.

To summarize: In India the real estate and development industry is tightly linked with the government. Trump has multiple business ventures in India, many of which include business partners who are either politicians themselves or have some connection to politicians. These connects can be (and typically are) used to get permits and approval for projects.

All quotes from NYT

Business in Brazil

This is a continuation on the New York Times story posted previously

Two years after announcing a deal to add the Trump brand to a hotel in Rio, it is already in the middle of conflicts. The first, less worrying, issue is that it is still not complete and barely opened in time for the summer Olympics. Much more worrying are the “irregularities” that seem to “warrant a criminal investigation.”

The examination of the project by Mr. Lopes, the federal prosecutor, has already found a series of “highly suspicious” potential irregularities warranting a criminal investigation, according to court documents. “It is necessary to verify if the favoritism shown by the pension funds to LSH and the Trump Organization was due to the payment of illicit commissions and bribes,” Mr. Lopes said in documents filed in October.

In his filings, Mr. Lopes said the size of the hotel investments relative to the overall holdings of the small pension funds reflected a highly unusual level of risk, especially for an unfinished venture that failed to capitalize fully on the demand for accommodations during the Olympics.

[…]

Even if Brazil’s executive branch actively tries to seek warmer relations with Mr. Trump, officials will face obstacles if they try to quell the investigation. Brazil differs from some other countries in Latin America where presidents can easily exert pressure on prosecutors and judges, with the judiciary steadily growing more independent.

“Brazilian diplomats could try to avoid the problem of referring to the investigation when dealing with the Trump administration, but that’s about all they can do,” said Maurício Santoro, a political scientist at the State University of Rio de Janeiro. “This is something that could hang over relations between the two countries for years.”

NYT

This investigation, no matter the outcome with respect to the Trump business, could still create tensions between Brazil and the new administration.

 

Conflicts Around The World

The New York Times has been looking into Trump’s business ventures around the world to get a better gauge on possible conflicts they could raise during the presidency.

But a review by The Times of these business dealings identified a menu of the kinds of complications that could create a running source of controversy for Mr. Trump, as well as tensions between his priorities as president and the needs and objectives of his companies.

[…]

Several of Mr. Trump’s real estate ventures in India — where he has more projects underway than in any location outside North America — are being built through companies with family ties to India’s most important political party. This makes it more likely that Indian government officials will do special favors benefiting Mr. Trump’s projects, including pressuring state-owned banks to extend favorable loans.

[…]

In Ireland and Scotland, executives from Mr. Trump’s golf courses have been waging two separate battles with local officials. The most recent centers on the Trump Organization’s plans to build a flood-prevention sea wall at the course on the Irish coast. Some environmentalists say the wall could destroy an endangered snail’s habitat — a dispute that will soon involve the president of the United States.

[…]

David J. Kramer, who served as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor during the Bush administration, said Mr. Trump’s financial entanglements could undermine decades of efforts by Democratic and Republican presidents to promote government transparency — and to use the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act to stop contractors from paying bribes to secure government work abroad.

[…]

Even if Mr. Trump and his family seek no special advantages from foreign governments, officials overseas may feel compelled to help the Trump family by, say, accelerating building permits or pushing more business to one of the new president’s hotels or golf courses, according to several former State Department officials.

[…]

there has been very little division, in the weeks since the election, between Mr. Trump’s business interests and his transition effort, with the president-elect or his family greeting real estate partners from India and the Philippines in his office and Mr. Trump raising concerns about his golf course in Scotland with a prominent British politician. Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is in charge of planning and development of the Trump Organization’s global network of hotels, has joined in conversations with at least three world leaders — of Turkey, Argentina and Japan — having access that could help her expand the brand worldwide.

[…]

the Constitution, through what is called the emoluments clause, appears to prohibit him from taking payments or gifts from a foreign government entity, a standard that some legal experts say he may violate by renting space in Trump Tower in New York to the Bank of China or if he hosts foreign diplomats in one of his hotels.

NYT

They go into potential conflicts in more detail, which I will summarize in other posts.

 

Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5

Conflicts

The Washington Post has a running list of how Trump could (or already is) benefit financially from the presidency. Not everyone has full access to WaPo unless you want to pay, so I will summarize for you.

First, a nice figure showing business holdings in other nations.

imrs

  • He met with Indian businessmen, whom he has business connections with, after winning the election. They initially claimed it was just a meeting to offer congratulations but then later admitted that they had talked business.

One consultant who’d worked with Trump, Pranav Bhakta, explained the benefit to the Times: “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.”

  •  His daughter and son-in-law were included in a meeting with the Japanese Prime Minister. Largely an issue because they are not elected officials and have no government credentials or security clearance. [More, more]

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  • His 3 oldest children are on his transition team and running his company. He was supposed to distance himself from the company but …

 

  • Ivanka was included in a call with the President of Argentina. This would be an okay thing if you’re teaching your children how to run a business but not when you are getting ready to run a country. [More]

 

  • As I mentioned in a previous post, there is a lot of controversy over the new Trump hotel in DC. [My post]

Foreign diplomats see the Trump Hotel as an opportunity to curry favor with the president-elect. [WaPo]

 

Conflict Meetings

Trump met with 3 Indian business partners last week in between transition team meetings.

Washington ethics lawyers said that a meeting with Indian real estate partners, regardless of what was discussed, raised conflict of interest questions for Mr. Trump, who could be perceived as using the presidency to advance his business interests.

[…]

His role as president-elect should dictate that someone else handles business matters.”[X]

Another concern is that he has these marketing agreements where he allows other companies to use his name without owning the property himself. He has these agreements in South Korea, the United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, the Philippines and Turkey. [X] This is concerning because it could raise new conflicts of interest.

More on this specific meeting