The Slatest

Trump Meeting With Indian Business Partners Raises Fresh Conflict of Interest Concerns

A billboard for the upcoming luxury residential apartment complex Trump Tower Mumbai is seen next to a busy road in Mumbai on June 3.

Indranil Mukherjee/AFP/Getty Images

Donald Trump may be busy figuring out the details of his White House move, but he’s apparently not too busy to take some time out of his day to meet with a couple of his business partners. Earlier this week, Trump met with three Indian businessmen who are building an apartment complex with the president-elect’s name, raising new questions about whether the real estate mogul will really be able to separate himself from his business interests once he becomes leader of the free world.

The meeting was first reported earlier this week by the Economic Times, an Indian newspaper, which said the three businessmen had discussed expanding the president-elect’s business interests in India. Trump, whose company has five projects in India, allegedly praised India’s prime minister during the meeting. Trump reportedly said Prime Minister Narendra Modi “is doing a great job,” Sagar Chordia, the director of Panchshil Realty who took part in the meeting, told the Economic Times.

The New York Times picked up the story on Sunday, noting that the meeting has raised fresh concerns about Trump’s conflict of interest once he is in office. A spokeswoman for Trump played down the significance of the meeting, emphasizing it was nothing but a courtesy call from people who wanted to congratulate Trump on his election victory. Ethics experts were quick to sound the alarm though. “There may be people for whom this looks O.K.,” said Robert L. Walker, the former chief counsel of the Senate Ethics Committee. “But for a large part of the American public, it is not going to be O.K. His role as president-elect should dictate that someone else handles business matters.”

This comes on the heels of other bits of news that have also raised questions about whether Trump will be able to keep his business interests separate from his role as commander in chief. Earlier this week, Ivanka Trump sat in on a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe. That was concerning because she is supposedly one of the Trump children who will be running the “blind trust” (which isn’t really a “blind trust”) that would operate his business interests while in office. Also, the Washington Post revealed on Saturday that Trump’s Washington hotel is trying to woo embassies to put up their visitors in the property when they’re in the U.S. capital. Suddenly, the hotel is looking like a very attractive place for foreign dignitaries.

These are just the latest examples of how Trump’s incoming administration “faces ethical concerns largely unparalleled in White House history,” as Slate’s Josh Voorhees wrote on Friday. So far at least, there is little sign Trump—or anyone on his team—is taking these concerns very seriously.