The Trump presidency continues to spark ethics concerns, with the latest worry concerning a trip this week by President Donald Trump's eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., to India.
The trip, which begins Tuesday, is "intended to help sell more than $1 billion in luxury residential units being built by the Trumps and their local partners," the New York Times reported.
As multiple news outlets noted, the visit is being promoted by several major Indian newspapers, with front-page ads that feature a picture of Trump Jr. and the words, "Trump is here. Are you invited?" At least one offers the opportunity "for a conversation and dinner" with Trump Jr. for buyers who quickly snatch up Trump Tower properties in Gurgaon, near the capital.
A similar dinner is also being promoted in Kolkata. Historian Patrick French tweeted a photo of one of the advertisements:
For the last however many days every newspaper in India has been wrapped in this abominable invitation to dinner with Trump Jr. pic.twitter.com/HXub9Hrpte— Patrick French (@PatrickFrench) February 18, 2018
In New Delhi, the Guardian reported, Trump Jr. "will be shown around one of the four construction projects in the country licensed by the family company."
In addition to visiting the Gurgaon property, "Trump Jr. will also visit projects in Kolkata, Mumbai, and Pune. India is the company's largest market outside the U.S., earning the family up to $3m in royalties in 2016," the outlet continued.
"Trump's company is literally selling access to the president's son overseas," Jordan Libowitz, the communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), told the Washington Post. "For many people wanting to impact American policy in the region, the cost of a condo is a small price to pay to lobby one of the people closest to the president, far away from watchful eyes."
And according to Norm Eisen, who served as ethics czar under the Obama administration and is the chair of CREW, "Don Jr.'s brazen exploitation of his father's position on India trip shocks the conscience."
"They are auctioning off access to the first family in a foreign land," Eisen said to CNN, adding, "What is to stop a foreign national with interests before the U.S. government from asking Don Junior to raise some issue or concern with his father? We know that father and son talk all the time, and discuss business," he added.
Daniel S. Markey, who helped coordinate South Asia policy at the State Department during the George W. Bush administration, told the Times that it "is just bizarre" that "the president's son would be going and shilling the president's brand at same time Donald Trump is president and is managing strategic and foreign relations with India."
The Post reports that Trump Jr.'s "unofficial" visit will also include delivering "a foreign policy speech on Indo-Pacific relations at an event with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi."