NEW DELHI (AP) — Donald Trump Jr., the eldest son of the U.S. president, will be pushing another ethics boundary on his whirlwind trip to India where he has been promoting Trump-brand real estate.
On Friday evening he is to make a foreign policy speech at a New Delhi business summit headlined by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Two government ministers are also scheduled to speak at the two-day conference.
He will be speaking about "Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The era of Cooperation."
Critics say airing his views on international relations, especially while sharing a platform with senior Indian government officials, is problematic because of the implication that he has his father’s ear.
"I am concerned that Mr. Trump’s speech will send the mistaken message that he is speaking on behalf of the president, the administration or the United States government, not as a private individual, or that he is communicating official American policy," Sen. Robert Menendez, ranking Democratic on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a letter earlier this week to the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi.
Menendez said he expects that the U.S. State Department and the embassy will treat Trump Jr. like any other American on private business and "will take every effort to avoid any perception of special treatment or a conflict of interest."
On Thursday, White House spokeswoman Lindsay E. Walters said the Trump administration "takes seriously its obligation to ensure that government resources are not used to provide a private benefit to anyone."
"Donald Trump Jr. is a private individual and neither the State Department nor the White House has provided any support for this trip beyond coordinating with his Secret Service protection," Walters said.
Trump Jr.‘s India visit has already raised ethical concerns.
President Trump has pledged to stay away from any new foreign business deals during his term in office to avoid potential ethical conflicts. While the projects that Trump Jr. is promoting in India were inked before his father was elected, ethics experts have long seen the use of the Trump name to promote even existing business ventures as tricky territory.
Trump Jr. and his brother Eric have been running the Trump Organization, the family’s real estate business, during their father’s presidency.
Since Tuesday, Trump Jr. has been traveling to four Indian cities to meet business partners and buyers in the luxury residential projects that bear his family’s name.
With five ventures under the Trump brand, India has the company’s largest number of projects outside the United States. The Trump Organization charges a licensing fee to its Indian partners who build the properties under the Trump name. A luxury complex is already open in the central city of Pune while the others are in varying stages of construction in Mumbai and Kolkata and two in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon.
Trump Jr. has dismissed claims that his family business is benefiting from his father’s presidency.