The White House has declined to comment on a planned Indonesian real estate project which will bring together Trump Organization branding and hundreds of millions of dollars of Chinese government money.
“MNC Lido City” is the name of the massive, billion-dollar “integrated lifestyle resort” that will be built on the outskirts of Jakarta. Among other things, the resort will include hotels, residences, and a golf course that will all be under the Trump Organization brand.
Meanwhile, a state-owned Chinese construction firm has signed a deal to be the ones to build a theme park inside the resort.
The project is yet another part of China’s “Belt and Road Initiative,” an ambitious trillion dollar effort that’s aimed at improving infrastructure, connectivity, and cooperation across Asia, Africa, and Europe while helping China to reassume its position at the center of the world.
In that vein, the resort will receive funding of up to $500 million in Chinese government loans, according to the AFP.
Though the Chinese construction firm will not actually build any of the Trump-branded properties, the AFP notes that China will play an extremely critical part in the project’s overall success — providing half of the funding and constructing one of its key attractions.
There’s no evidence that the Trump Organization lobbied for Chinese money and help in the project, however, the president’s sons were reportedly directly involved in various stages of the resort’s planning. The organization first signed on to be a part of the Lido project in 2015.
At a White House press briefing yesterday, a Los Angeles Times reporter asked how this project was not a violation of the Constitution’s emoluments clause and of the Trump Organization’s promise not to engage in any new foreign deals while Trump was president.
“I’ll have to refer you to the Trump organization,” answered Press Secretary Raj Shah. “You’re asking about a private organization’s dealings that may have to do with a foreign government. It’s not something that I can speak to.”
Asked about Chinese government’s involvement in a Trump Organization project in Indonesia and if that violates the emoluments clause, Raj Shah says, “I’ll have to refer you to the Trump Organization… you’re asking about a private organization’s dealings.” pic.twitter.com/3R2vjEHe32
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 14, 2018
While this sort of questionable and corruptible fusion of private business and the presidency has been part of the President Donald Trump experience from the very beginning, the Lido project has managed to raise more eyebrows than usual, coming just as Trump has made the unusual decision to publicly step forward to protect Chinese phone maker ZTE and save Chinese jobs.
ZTE is facing financial ruin at the moment after being hit with a crippling ban from the US Commerce Department which forbids American companies from selling to the firm for the next seven years. The ban came after ZTE was found to have broken an agreement reached last year with the US when it was caught illegally shipping millions of dollars of American hardware and software to Iran, violating sanctions.
Considering Trump’s “America First” persona and his fiery rhetoric against Iran, many were stunned and perplexed by his pro-ZTE tweet on Sunday. Some have now insinuated that the US president’s sudden support for the Chinese phone-maker comes because of the $500 million in loans from Beijing.
If you didn’t care about Trump breaking the emoluments clause before, now that he’s trying to bail out China Smartphone giant ZTE in what seems to be a way to secure a $500 million Chinese loan that benefits Trump hotels in Indonesia, maybe now would be a good time to start!
— Ed Krassenstein (@EdKrassen) May 14, 2018
However, others argue that Trump is merely acting as the Negotiator in Chief, offering to save ZTE in exchange for important trade concessions. The Wall Street Journal has reported that for the removal of sanctions against ZTE, China is prepared to drop tariffs on a number of US agricultural products including pork.
All images in this article are from the author.