Pres­i­dent’s sons at­tend open­ing of Trump-branded golf re­sort in Dubai

The Washington Post Sunday - - THE WORLD - BY SUDARSAN RAGHAVAN sudarsan.raghavan@wash­post.com

dubai — The red car­pet was laid out Satur­day for Pres­i­dent Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., the guests of honor at a plush event that brought out Dubai’s busi­ness elite and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials to toast the launch of the Trump In­ter­na­tional Golf Club.

The guests, a mix of for­eign­ers and lo­cals, walked past lighted palm trees and were greeted by a line of Western women dressed in black with cream-col­ored shawls. Wait­ers served dim sum, quail egg canapes and lemon meringue tarts as an eight-per­son string orches­tra played Vi­valdi’s “Four Sea­sons.”

It was the first open­ing of a Trump-branded prop­erty since the pres­i­dent’s in­au­gu­ra­tion, il­lu­mi­nat­ing how much his busi­ness in­ter­ests are thriv­ing de­spite con­cerns over po­ten­tial con­flicts of in­ter­ests that could open the pres­i­dency up to for­eign in­flu­ence. While he has given con­trol of his global em­pire to his chil­dren, Trump has not di­vested his own­er­ship, which means he will ben­e­fit from any com­mer­cial suc­cess of the golf re­sort.

The Trump-branded golf re­sort, the first of its kind in the Arab world, is lo­cated inside a sprawl­ing res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity of 9,000 vil­las and apart­ments, about a half-hour drive from down­town Dubai.

The de­vel­op­ment was built by DA­MAC Prop­er­ties, a large Dubai-based luxury real es­tate de­vel­oper that signed a mul­ti­mil­lion-dol­lar brand­ing and man­age­ment con­tract with Trump’s com­pany to op­er­ate the golf re­sort.

The pres­i­dent and Hus­sain Sa­jwani, the bil­lion­aire founder of DA­MAC, are close friends. At a New Year’s Eve party at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Fla., the then pres­i­dent-elect de­scribed Sa­jwani and his fam­ily as “the most beau­ti­ful peo­ple from Dubai.”

On Satur­day, it was Sa­jwani’s turn to re­turn the com­pli­ments. Stand­ing at a lectern, with Eric and Don Jr. seated in front, Sa­jwani said that “work­ing with the Trump fam­ily and Trump Or­ga­ni­za­tion was to­tally a plea­sure,” and he de­scribed the fam­ily as “a great” com­bi­na­tion of “class, achieve­ment and hon­esty.”

Min­utes later, Eric Trump stepped up to the lectern and praised Sa­jwani.

“We have a part­ner who is also a great friend with a truly amaz­ing fam­ily,” said Eric Trump. “I love be­ing with them.”

Le­gal and ethics ex­perts have raised con­cerns over Trump’s chum­mi­ness with Sa­jwani, say­ing it sug­gests the pres­i­dent has lit­tle in­ter­est in sep­a­rat­ing him­self from his com­pany’s busi­ness in­ter­ests. Sa­jwani, whose com­pany had a U.S. gov­ern­ment con­tract to pro­vide meals dur­ing the first Per­sian Gulf War in 1991, has con­sid­ered in­vest­ing in real es­tate projects in the United States.

The close friend­ship be­tween Sa­jwani and Pres­i­dent Trump is one rea­son Satur­day’s open­ing at­tracted a large gath­er­ing of peo­ple in the busi­ness com­mu­nity.

“Many peo­ple are here be­cause of the Trump name,” said Ashok Kumar, a busi­ness­man who said he was hop­ing to meet with the Trump sons for pos­si­ble net­work­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties. He added that Sa­jwani had also be­come more cel­e­brated and in­flu­en­tial in the United Arab Emirates be­cause of his prox­im­ity to the Amer­i­can pres­i­dent.

“This is un­usual to see such a gath­er­ing for a golf club open­ing,” chimed in an­other Dubai busi­ness­man nearby.

Niall McLough­lin, a se­nior DA­MAC ex­ec­u­tive, said that the com­pany owns the golf course and the res­i­den­tial com­mu­nity and that it had no ties to the UAE gov­ern­ment. But dur­ing his speech, Sa­jwani made it clear that his fortunes in part rested on the good­will of the gov­ern­ment. He thanked Dubai’s ruler Sheikh Mo­hammed bin Rashid al-Mak­toum as well as var­i­ous lo­cal gov­ern­ment bod­ies, in­clud­ing the land coun­cil, the elec­tric­ity depart­ment and the Dubai po­lice.

Le­gal an­a­lysts think that Trump’s for­eign busi­ness in­ter­ests could vi­o­late the emol­u­ments clause in the Con­sti­tu­tion in­tended to shield the United States from any cor­rupt­ing for­eign in­flu­ences. It pre­vents pub­lic of­fi­cials from re­ceiv­ing gifts or pay­ments from for­eign gov­ern­ments with­out the con­sent of the U.S. Congress.

On Satur­day, Trump’s sons hob­nobbed with elites in a sep­a­rate VIP area. They both re­ceived a box con­tain­ing a pearl as gifts from DA­MAC to cel­e­brate their part­ner­ship, which Don Jr. de­scribed in his speech as one that is go­ing to last for many years.

The evening ended with a spec­tac­u­lar fire­works dis­play that lit up the sky over the golf course.

ALEXAN­DER CORNWELL/REUTERS

Fire­works ex­plode fol­low­ing the open­ing re­cep­tion for the Trump In­ter­na­tional Golf Club in Dubai. Pres­i­dent Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr. at­tended the event.

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