Remember that call Trump had with the Argentinian President? There were rumors that he had discussed a Trump Organization project in Buenos Aires in that call. But Trump’s people argued that the project was already approved, and that the subject never came up. Now a new report says the project was stalled before the call, after which it suddenly was revived:
Three days after the phone call between Trump and Macri on Nov.14, Trump’s associates at Buenos Aires firm YY Development Group announced that the construction project would go ahead, in an interview with La Nación (link in Spanish). The tower’s construction had reportedly been held up for years, for various reasons, with YY Development actively restarting construction permit requests when pro-business Macri took over from statist former president Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner in Jan. 2016.
There’s nothing substantive to confirm that the phone call and construction announcement are linked, but local news media have reported that the call itself was arranged in very unusual fashion. Macri, who is son of one of Latin America’s richest men and has reportedly known Trump since beating him at golf in the 1980s, had backed the wrong horse at the election, openly supporting Hillary Clinton. Accordingly, a crisis meeting was called to work out how to put relations on the right track (Spanish language) with Trump’s administration.
La Nación reports that foreign minister Susana Malcorra eventually made contact with Trump’s son Eric, with the assistance of close Trump business associate Felipe Yaryura. An Buenos Aires-based businessman and a co-owner of YY Development, Yaryura was with the Trump team and family at the post-election celebrations in the Hilton hotel in New York. Malcorra and Eric Trump reportedly had a “nice and cordial” conversation, with Eric telling Malcorra that his father would talk with Macri when his timetable allows. He then put her in touch with Trump’s foreign affairs team.
Trump has taken a very cavalier attitude towards the entire conflict of interest issue, telling the New York Times that the law is on his side and that the President can’t have conflicts of interest:
Trump on his businesses/conflict q's: "The law's totally on my side, the president can't have a conflict of interest."
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) November 22, 2016
It’s reminiscent of Nixon’s dictum that it’s not illegal if the President does it.
Trump doesn’t even have to bring up a deal like this in a call with a foreign leader. As long as he still retains a financial interest in the Trump Organization, foreign governments will do him favors. And he seemingly has no intention of changing that scenario. It’s a side benefit!
Apparently Trump thinks that, having won the Presidency despite a lifetime of shady deals and questionable ethics, there’s no reason to change who he is now. Apparently he thinks he has no need to worry about the inevitable barrage of stories to come about the obvious inherent conflicts of interests between his businesses and his office.
Maybe he’s correct about that. But it doesn’t make it right.