Donald Trump Jr. traveled to Dubai and met a billionaire business partner in the city-state, discussing “new ideas” as the Emirati’s real estate firm still lists possible plans for future joint projects while Trump’s father is in the White House.
The Trump Organization has said it won’t make new foreign deals while Donald Trump serves as America’s 45th president. That didn’t affect the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai’s opening in February, while a previously planned Trump-branded golf course designed by Tiger Woods is still being built nearby.
Both projects are being built by Dubai’s DAMAC Properties, owned by Emirati billionaire Hussain Sajwani. His company has paid the Trump Organization’s subsidiaries between $1 million to $5 million for the projects, according to a U.S. Federal Election Committee report submitted in May 2016.
Sajwani’s Instagram account posted a picture Tuesday night showing him with Trump, who now runs the Trump Organization with his brother Eric, at a table covered in a spread of Middle Eastern food and a plate of French fries.
“It was great having my dear friend and business partner Donald Trump Jr. over for lunch,” a caption with the photo read. “Discussing new ideas and innovation always make our meetings even more interesting.”
DAMAC did not respond to a request for comment about the meeting. However, recent regulatory filings made by the company suggest possible future plans with the Trump Organization.
DAMAC mentioned the Trump Organization in a prospectus for a sukuk, a type of Islamic bond, launched in April on the NASDAQ Dubai exchange. That filing noted DAMAC’s “product expansion also includes branding arrangements with … the Trump Organization.” It also listed plans for a “luxury boutique hotel to be operated by the Trump Organization” at DAMAC Hills, a massive development of villas and apartment buildings in Dubai’s desert that surrounds the newly opened Trump golf course.
Similar language had been included in previous regulatory filings by DAMAC, but its presence in documents after Trump’s election suggests the real estate company is keeping its options open. Days before becoming president, Trump had told journalists that DAMAC had offered the Trump Organization $2 billion in deals after his election, something DAMAC also confirmed.
Meanwhile, a quarterly earnings filing Monday made by DAMAC’s holding company listed a newly created subsidiary called Trump International Golf Club LLC, in which it described as holding a 100 percent legal and economic interest. The UAE-based entity lists its principal activity as being the “golf club,” without elaborating.
The Trump Organization has no new deals in the works in Dubai, company spokeswoman Amanda Miller said Wednesday. The company declined to answer other questions.
DAMAC’s first-quarter net profits of $240 million were down 16 percent compared to last year’s $285 million. The lower profits come as weak global oil prices squeeze Mideast countries, whose citizens form about half of DAMAC’s clientele.
DAMAC’s managing director also resigned Thursday, the company said in a regulatory filing. It offered no reason for his departure.
Experts have raised concerns that existing Trump business abroad could run afoul of the so-called “emoluments clause” of the U.S. Constitution. That clause bars public officials from accepting gifts or payments from foreign governments and companies controlled by them without the consent of Congress. Already, a liberal-funded watchdog group has filed a lawsuit citing the clause.
Others criticize Trump family members for traveling with Secret Service details while on private business trips, something afforded to them as direct relatives of the president.
While in Dubai, Trump also gave a commencement speech Sunday at the American University in Dubai, a private university founded in 1995 that has some 2,700 students. The university did not announce Trump would be making a commencement speech on its website ahead of time.
“When I look back on what my father did in this past election, and the risk he took, to me I’m far more impressed with the fact that he tried than by the fact he actually won,” Trump said in the 14-minute speech. “For a billionaire to step away from an amazing life and spend $75 million to go up against an incredible Republican field and then go up against one of the great political machines ever assembled… to do that was amazing.”
“We believed in his message and not necessarily the contrived message that was put out there in the media,” he added.
The university did not answer repeated emails and telephone calls asking if Trump received any payment for his speech. Security guards turned away an Associated Press journalist at the university’s gate Wednesday.