After A Year In Office, Questions About Trump's Foreign Deals Go On. And On : Parallels When preparing to take the oath of office, President Trump promised to make no new foreign business deals. But a year later, ethics experts say the problems have not been solved in any meaningful way.
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After A Year In Office, Questions About Trump's Foreign Deals Go On. And On

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After A Year In Office, Questions About Trump's Foreign Deals Go On. And On

After A Year In Office, Questions About Trump's Foreign Deals Go On. And On

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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We're nearing the first anniversary of President Trump's inauguration, which means he has spent a year as president while continuing to own business interests around the world. While refusing to divest or set up a blind trust as ethics experts suggested, the president did promise to avoid new overseas deals. So has he kept that narrow promise? Here's NPR's Jackie Northam.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: When President Trump publicly declared at a press conference that he would do no new foreign business deals, he offered up a sign of good faith. He said he had just been offered a $2 billion deal to open a golf course in Dubai...

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PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: And I turned it down. I didn't have to turn it down 'cause as you know I have a no-conflict situation because I'm president.

NORTHAM: Trump didn't mention he already has two golf course deals in Dubai with the same developer. It's a simple omission of fact, much the same as President Trump seems to have kept his word and not personally signed any new foreign business deals over the past year. But his company is still involved with Trump-branded resorts, hotels and golf courses all over the world. His sons, Eric and Donald Jr, are working with local developers to expand some of those projects, says Carolyn Kenney with the Center for American Progress.

CAROLYN KENNEY: As the Trump organization moves forward with some of its major unfinished developments such as those in Indonesia and India, they certainly seem to be stretching the spirit of the promise to not undertake any new deals.

NORTHAM: Kenney says many of these unfinished projects do involve new contracts for infrastructure projects.

KENNEY: There's a recent example of a Chinese state-owned construction company being contracted to develop a road for Trump's Dubai development, and then also the local government in Bali plans to construct a toll road to Trump's property on the island.

NORTHAM: But foreign government involvement with Trump properties runs the risk of impacting the president's foreign-policy decision making, according to Noah Bookbinder with the government watchdog CREW, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington.

NOAH BOOKBINDER: If foreign governments provide permits or easements or build roads that help the president's businesses, all of those are things that could send a signal to the president that these are foreign governments who want to get favor from him by helping his businesses.

NORTHAM: Requests for comment to the Trump organization were not returned. Bookbinder says there's no telling if any of Trump's policy decisions have or could be swayed by his business concerns, but he says the perception can be as damning as the reality. He points to China, where Trump spent more than a decade unsuccessfully trying to register trademarks. When Trump became president, he endorsed China's policy concerning Taiwan. Bookbinder says, shortly after, Trump was awarded valuable trademarks.

BOOKBINDER: We don't know if there was a link between the change in the president's policy choice and a benefit to his companies, but as long as he has those companies, we're going to have to question what his motivation was.

NORTHAM: And questioned the motivation of some of the countries and people Trump does business with. Take the Philippines, where there is a Trump Tower Manila. Sarah Chayes with Carnegie Endowment for International Peace says a few months ago the Philippine government created a new position for Trump's local business partner in that project.

SARAH CHAYES: Trump's business partner, Filipino business partner, is now the Philippines' trade representative to the United States.

NORTHAM: Chayes says the only way to prevent conflicts would be for Trump to divest himself of all his business interests, something the president has repeatedly said he won't do. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

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