The Trump Organization’s partner in Akoya Oxygen, a massive golf course being designed by Tiger Woods and a commercial development project in Dubai, has contracted with a huge Chinese government-owned construction company to build part of the infrastructure in a $32 million deal which critics say raises serious ethical issues about whether Donald Trump has a conflict of interest and may violate the Constitution’s Emoluments Clause prohibiting self-dealing by the president.
Trump promised when elected that his company would not make new deals or transactions with any foreign entity (country, agency or official) other than normal arrangements on contracts completed before his election. This appears to violate that pledge.
Around his inaugural, as he refused to fully separate from his businesses as all previous presidents have done, Trump also outlined a list of restrictions for his company to follow while he is president to avoid this kind of ethical problem.
This deal raises serious issues that appear to violate his promise to not work with any foreign government on deals that might enrich him, provide them access or build goodwill with him, and thus influence his foreign policy decisions.
Meredith McGhee, chief of policy, programs, and strategy at Issue One, a nonpartisan, nonprofit group which works to reduce the role of money in politics, said the Dubai deal and the Chinese connection are extremely problematic.
“This is not just a concern of good government organizations,” said McGhee. “It was a fundamental concern of the founding fathers.”
The Dubai-based company DAMAC Properties in March announced the contract with the Chinese government-controlled company, China State Construction Engineering Corporation, along with more than 100 other transactions, without any mention of the connection to the Trump Organization.
The Trump connection was revealed today in an article by McClatchy News Washington bureau with the headline: “Trump promised not to work with foreign entities. His company just did.”
As Trump has done in many deals, his company is not financing and will not own much of the development, which will include pricey Trump branded condominiums. Trump has licensed the use of the Trump name and has a contract to operate the golf course.
“The Trump Organization’s subsidiaries,” reported the Associated Press last March, “received from $1 million to $5 million from DAMAC, according to a Federal Election Committee report submitted in May.”
DAMAC Properties was founded in 2002 by Hussain Sajwani and had $1.9 billion in revenue last year. It is based in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, but does real estate developments all over the Middle East.
Shortly before Trump’s inaugural, DAMAC offered to partner with The Trump Organization on an additional $2 billion in deals, but Trump declined. At his first press conference as president (one of the few), Trump said, “I turned it down. I didn’t have to turn it down because as you know I have no conflict situation because I’m president…But I don’t want to take advantage of something.”
The Chinese company, CSCEC, is the seventh largest company in China and 37th worldwide with nearly $130 billion in revenues in 2014, according to Fortune Magazine.
CSCEC has done business in the U.S. since the 1980s, and in 2009 was one of several businesses accused by the World Bank of corruption connected to bidding on a road project in the Philippines. It was banned from working on World Bank-financed projects for several years.
For Akoya Oxygen, CSCEC is to build a six-lane road. A Trump official told McClatchy that the golf course and road are completely unrelated, “despite marketing materials, including brochures, websites and news releases, showing them intricately tied together.”
The deal with the Chinese company violates “Trump’s promise to avoid foreign government transactions while he is in office,” according to the New York Daily News.
In fact, Trump’s companies have signed major new business deals this year with foreign government owned entities, “including some Trump has claimed he will hammer with tough economic negotiations,” reports the NY Daily News.
That includes deals for trademark approvals with China, Mexico, and Russia.
Recently leaked documents also show Trump was working with the Russian government while he ran for president on a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. That deal was never completed. Trump is already being
Trump is already being sued in federal court in a lawsuit charging him with violating the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, with oral arguments scheduled to begin next month.
The ultimate penalty for violating the Emoluments Clause would be impeachment, but so far Trump seems unfazed by which his companies have done while he has been in The White House.
The deal with the Chinese firm is done in a way that allows Trump to claim it is actually the Dubai company that is making the deal, but it is known that Trump and his family keep a close eye on projects where their name is going to be front and center like this one.
Once again, Trump’s refusal to sell or put his businesses into a real blind trust leaves the impression of a conflict of interest, double dealing and more lies and deception around his activities and the appearance that he is constantly self-dealing for his own personal profit.
The machinery of government and justice move slowly in these cases, especially when Trump’s cronies in the Republican party constantly protect his interests and reputation to avoid any embarrassments which might reflect badly on them as well.
However, it is hard not to see that Trump is just raising a curtain on his self-dealing, working through others, but in the end lining his own pockets at the expense of the good name and reputation of the presidency of the United States.