Donald Trump Jr. is currently in India, doing exactly the thing people worried he and his siblings would do during their father’s presidency: use their proximity to the White House to enrich themselves.
The Trump Organization has pledged to avoid any new business deals while the elder Trump is in office. But while the projects Junior is promoting in India were in the works last year—the Trumps have licensed the family name to five major properties— they are still trying to move the units. Front-page ads in several Indian newspapers touted his trip with the banner headline “Trump has arrived. Have you?” and a promise that buyers who order apartments in a new Trump-branded development outside the capital, New Delhi, would be treated to “conversation and dinner” with the president’s son a day later. According to the Washington Post, Trump Jr.’s trip netted $15 million in sales on Monday alone.
It’s not all wining and dining high rollers though. Trump told an Indian TV channel that he was impressed by cheerfulness of India’s poor. “I don’t want to be glib but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face,” he said.
The U.S. embassy in India and the State Department maintain that Trump is traveling as a private citizen. But on Friday, he is giving a speech titled “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” at a business summit that will feature Prime Minister Narendra Modi among other senior Indian government officials. “Indo-Pacific” is a term that’s been used heavily by Trump administration officials, seen as an effort to loop India in with East Asia in order to somewhat dilute China’s regional importance. It’s a bit hard to imagine a universe in which the leaders of India would be anxious to hear Donald Trump Jr.’s thoughts on “Indo-Pacific ties” if they did not believe he might have the U.S. president’s ear.
Given what we know about the efforts to cultivate Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kusher by India’s rival, China, where he and his wife Ivanka also have business interests, Modi would be stupid not to try to win the favor of the Trump kids by any means available.