Trump venture in India noticed $15 million in gross sales after patrons had been presented dinner with Donald Trump Jr.


Donald Trump Jr.’s private business trip to India this week — during which he’s expected to give a foreign policy speech alongside Prime Minister Narendra Modi, raising conflict of interest concerns — netted $15 million in real estate sales for a Trump Towers project on Monday alone.

The younger Trump has spent the week promoting the family’s real estate brand across India, where the Trump Organization has more business entities than in any other foreign country. He has been attending a variety of private lunches and dinners with potential buyers and local business leaders as well as enticing buyers to purchase residences in the latest Trump Towers project in Gurgaon, where luxury flats sell for as much as $1.6 million.

Full-page glossy advertisements urged buyers paying a booking fee of about $38,000 by Thursday to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for a conversation and dinner” on Friday. Kalpesh Mehta, one of the local developers, told reporters Tuesday that they had already sold over $100 million worth of real estate in the towers — $15 million alone on Monday, after the Trump Jr. dinner offer appeared in newspapers.

His visit also prompted questions in Washington. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) raised concern in a letter sent Wednesday to the U.S. ambassador in India about the embassy’s engagement with the president’s eldest son. Trump Jr. is set to give a foreign policy speech at a global business summit in New Delhi on Friday titled “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” alongside Modi and other high-ranking Indian government officials.

The embassy only provided routine support to his Secret Service detail, it said.

President Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., attended the topping-out ceremony of his family’s branded apartment building in Mumbai on Feb. 22. Trump Jr. is on a week-long trip to India to help attract buyers for the Trump Towers in Mumbai, Pune, Kolkata and Gurgaon. (Reuters)

“I am concerned that Mr. Trump’s speech will send the mistaken message that he is speaking on behalf of the president, the administration or the United States government, not as a private individual, or that he is communicating official American policy,” Menendez, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote.

“Given the potential to confuse Mr. Trump’s private business visit with having an official governmental purpose, I write to ensure that the U.S. Embassy presence in India will have no role in supporting Mr. Trump or the Trump Organization during his time in India, other than that necessary to provide any security support for the U.S. Secret Service,” Menendez wrote.

The buyers’ dinner has raised conflict-of-interest concerns and charges by watchdog groups. Menendez asked whether the embassy will have any role in this event.

A spokesman for U.S. Ambassador Kenneth I. Juster said that Trump Jr. is visiting the country as a “private citizen” and that the embassy had only provided routine support for his Secret Service detail, such as booking hotel rooms.

Juster is in the process of replying to the letter from Menendez, who asked other questions, including whether embassy staff had briefed or assisted Trump Jr., what steps the embassy had taken to make it clear that Trump Jr. is not speaking on behalf of the government and whether the State Department or Bureau of Diplomatic Security had spent any funds on Trump Jr.’s trip.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Tuesday that Trump Jr. was in India as a “private citizen” and that she was not familiar with what was going to be in the speech or how it was put together.

The president’s eldest son, 40, is executive vice president of the Trump Organization, the global family real estate business that President Trump still controls. The company has licensed its name to five real estate projects in India, including residential towers in Pune, Mumbai, Gurgaon and Kolkata and a proposed office tower also in Gurgaon, a suburb of India’s capital also known as Gurugram. Some of the Trump Organization’s local business partners have ties to prominent politicians and have been involved in tax and other investigations.

Unlike his sister and brother-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, Trump Jr. has no official role in the administration, although he attended a meeting with a group of Russians at Trump Tower during the 2016 presidential campaign that is the subject of law enforcement and congressional scrutiny.

The Trump Organization did not immediately respond to emails and calls requesting comment, but Trump Jr. said in a televised interview at the CNBC affiliate in India that his family had not been given enough credit for the business they have lost because of self-imposed restrictions to avoid such perceptions of conflicts of interest.

“It’s sort of a shame. Because we put on all these impositions on ourselves and essentially got no credit for actually doing that,” Trump Jr. said in the interview. “For doing the right thing,” he added.

Critics on Capitol Hill and elsewhere have pointed out that Secret Service agents assigned to protect the Trump sons accompany them on these private business trips to promote the family’s brand name, racking up costly hotel bills and draining the agency’s budget.

In 2017, for example, Eric Trump’s business trip to Uruguay cost taxpayers $97,830 for hotel stays for the Secret Service plus embassy staff that supported the agents during the “VIP visit,” according to purchasing orders reviewed by The Washington Post.

Catherine Milhoan, a spokeswoman for the Secret Service, said in an email: “As a matter of practice, the U.S. Secret Service does not comment on the specifics of protectees’ trips.”

Published U.S. government rates for hotel rooms in Mumbai, Delhi, Pune and Kolkata, the cities Trump Jr. is visiting, range from a maximum of $273 per night in Pune to $309 in Mumbai.

Swati Gupta and Vidhi Doshi in New Delhi contributed to this report.

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