Paul R. Pillar
Foreign Policy Presidency, United States
The unethical blurring of private interests and public business is a hallmark of Donald Trump’s presidency. That blurring has increasingly involved U.S. foreign policy. The possible effects on U.S. foreign relations may be subtle and largely out of public view, but they arise every time, for example, foreign governments wanting something from the United States bring their business to the hotel that Trump’s company runs a few blocks from the White House.
The blurring was more openly displayed this week as Donald Trump Jr. traveled to India—with security provided by the U.S. Secret Service, assisted by the U.S. embassy—to drum up business involving the Trump Organization’s real estate endeavors. Sales reportedly have been good, aided by the chance to rub elbows with the U.S. president’s son if prospective buyers paid a $ 38,000 booking fee toward a Trump high-rise project south of New Delhi. The mixing of public policy and private business was scheduled to go even farther, with the younger Trump to give a speech on “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” at a conference just before Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was to speak at the same podium. But this bit of mixing was too blatant for even the Trumps to blow off the criticism, and Junior instead substituted a different sort of public appearance.
Presidential daughter Ivanka Trump currently is in South Korea, for the close of the Winter Olympics. Kim Yo-jong, sister of North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un, got much attention as “North Korea’s Ivanka” when she was in the south for the opening of the games. Now the real Ivanka, if true to form, will be mixing public and private business again. Her past involvement with the East Asia region has entailed the leveraging of official contacts to benefit sales of her brand of jewelry and accessories.