To celebrate New Year’s Eve, Donald Trump threw a party at his Miami Mar-A-Lago estate. Unlike a New Year’s Eve party you or I might throw, it was not free to attend; tickets to Trump’s soiree cost $500 or more. With over 800 in attendance, the take from ticket sales exceeded $400,000. It’s not uncommon for politicians to hold similar events as fundraisers, donating the money to a charity or campaign fund – but there’s no indication that the profits from Trump’s party went anywhere but straight into his own pockets.
Compounding the unseemly selfishness one might expect from a Trump event, the president-elect took time to publicly praise one attendee: Hussain Sajwani, a billionaire developer from Dubai who has apparently paid Trump millions of dollars to license his name. In the midst of serious and growing concerns about Trump’s massive and far-reaching conflicts of interest, events such as these only raise more questions about where the next president’s interests truly lie… and whether or not those personal interests are aligned with the good of our nation.
The New Year’s Eve party at Mar-A-Lago is far from the only (or even the most serious) instance of Donald Trump refusing to separate his personal business interests from the office of the Presidency. Despite many opportunities since his election to separate himself from his businesses, reassure the American public and the world, and prioritize the job of leading the United States over personally enriching himself, Donald Trump continues to brazenly and openly mingle his newfound political influence with his personal moneymaking enterprises. As Jeremy Venook writes in a new article for The Atlantic:
Trump’s commendation of Sajwani is part of a pattern in which the president-elect praises his business partners in ways that suggest he has little interest in extricating himself from his company’s interests. Previously, he has name-dropped business partners in Turkey and Argentina while on official calls with the countries’ leaders; he also met, and took photos, with associates from India shortly after the election. Moreover, as with several of the countries in which Trump-branded buildings are located, the United Arab Emirates has a questionable record on human rights; Human Rights Watch specifically states that the nation “uses its affluence to mask the government’s human-rights problems.”
By singling out Sajwani, Trump also runs headlong into accusations that he and his family are selling access to his administration through their organization and family foundations. According to Politico, tickets to celebrate with the president-elect at Mar-a-Lago, went for upwards of $500; the stated attendance of at least 800 people means that the Trump Organization made at least $400,000 off of ticket sales for the event. (There is no indication that the party was a fundraiser for any outside organization, such as a charity or campaign fund, as is often the case when politicians attend such an event.) Whether or not the president-elect sees it as such, the event offered attendees the opportunity to be in the same room as Trump and bend his ear for a price. This follows consternation regarding an auction for a face-to-face meeting with Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, and a charity event that offered a reception with the president-elect and a hunting trip with his two sons, both of which have since been cancelled, as well as ongoing speculation that foreign entities will attempt to curry favor with Trump by booking rooms and events at his hotel in Washington, D.C. That Trump singled out Sajwani at the New Year’s Eve party lends credence to these concerns—it’s an instance of someone receiving the president-elect’s attention simply by buying a ticket to one of his events.
In response to international concerns that Trump will allow United States policy to be influenced by his wealthy business associates, Trump has alternated between denying any conflicts exist, promising (and then canceling) press conferences to address the conflicts, and attacking people who point out the conflicts. The one thing he has so far failed to do regarding his conflicts of interest is make any genuine effort to resolve them.
For an in-depth analysis of Donald Trump’s major conflicts of interest, including an excellent breakdown of eighteen especially egregious examples, read the Venook article.