Donald Trump Jr defends dad as he drums up interest in Indonesian resort projects

While US President Donald Trump still owns the Trump Organization, his sons, Trump Jr. (above) and Eric Trump, have day-to-day control of the business.
While US President Donald Trump still owns the Trump Organization, his sons, Trump Jr. (above) and Eric Trump, have day-to-day control of the business.PHOTO: REUTERS

JAKARTA (WASHINGTON POST) - On a visit to promote two Trump-branded Indonesian resorts, the president's son Donald Trump Jr. defended the family's approach to separating politics from business and said the company has given up lucrative foreign opportunities to avoid conflicts of interest.

"We have turned down a lot of deals," Trump Jr. said at a news conference in Jakarta on Tuesday (Aug 13). "We made a very conscious decision of the family not to do that right now."

The Trump Organization has promised it would make no new foreign deals during President Trump's time in office. Plans for the two Indonesia resorts predate the Trump presidency but appeared to have stalled in recent years.

Trump Jr. called it "nonsense" that the president's foreign policy might be swayed by his business interests.

"He wouldn't make decisions that affect a country based on a real estate deal," Trump Jr. said of his father.

While the president still owns the Trump Organization, his sons, Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, have day-to-day control of the business. Trump Jr. flew to Jakarta this week to drum up interest among investors for condos and residences that are part of the Indonesia resorts.

The Trump Organization's business partner in Indonesia is billionaire Hary Tanoesoedibjo, a media and real estate baron and vocal Trump supporter who attended the president's inauguration. Mr Hary's daughter is being considered for a Cabinet-level position by Indonesia's president.

Mr Hary also sought to avoid politics, saying "all the discussion and the involvement with the Trump Organization is just pure business."

Mr Hary is building a resort on the island of Bali and a golf course and resort in the forests of West Java, south of Jakarta. He has said he expects the projects to be completed within three years and will be worth more than US$1.7 billion (S$2.4 billion).


The Trump Organization plans to manage the resorts and has licensed the president's name for the projects.

Mr Hary has been involved in other recent deals with the Trump family. In May, a corporate entity linked to him purchased the president's 5,400-square-foot Beverly Hills mansion for US$13.5 million, nearly double what Trump paid in 2007.

The fact that the Indonesia project appears to be moving forward is a bright spot for the Trump Organization, which in some places has suffered a backlash against Mr Trump's controversial brand of politics.

Since his election, the company lost control of a hotel in Panama, and its name was stripped from the facade of a condo building in New York. Golf courses in Scotland, Ireland and the United States have lost money.

A former Trump Organization executive said the company's decision not to enter into lucrative foreign licensing deals has been a setback for the company.

"International expansion was the backbone of our business plan," Mr George Sorial, the company's compliance counsel until this year, said in an interview in June. "We gave up our foreign expansion," and "there's no question that the impact was significant and substantial" on the financial health of the company.

During Trump Jr.'s visit to Indonesia, he was expected to meet with prospective buyers for the luxury condos and houses associated with the two Indonesia properties.

The project in West Java has been more controversial because Mr Hary's company, MNC Group, reportedly had struck a deal with a state-run Chinese company, the Metallurgical Corporation of China, to build a theme park near the Trump resort. But Mr Hary said on Tuesday that Chinese investment was no longer part of the deal.

He said his company had discussed a loan with a Chinese bank but decided against it. "It was done by our team, but finally we dropped it," he said. "The theme park has nothing to do with the Trump Organization, we have to make it clear."