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Trump Organization Proceeds With Two Major Indonesia Projects


Just last month, Donald Trump said that he would leave his businesses in the hands of his children. The president-elect announced on Twitter that there would be no new deals done during my terms in office. But the Trump organization has been moving forward with two projects in Indonesia, projects that put Trump into partnership with major political figures there. Eric Lipton writes about this in The New York Times. He joins us now via Skype. Welcome to the program.

ERIC LIPTON: Thank you.

CORNISH: So the deals you write about in Indonesia are for two resorts that will essentially, as I understand it, license the Trump name and be managed by Trump businesses. Who are these Indonesia business contacts?

LIPTON: The primary partner there is a billionaire media figure who is known by short name of Hary Tanoe and is building these projects in Bali and Lido in two prominent resort areas in Indonesia. And so there are resort developments with golf courses, and they will be branded as Trump buildings, and they will be managed by the Trump Organization.

CORNISH: Now, how close are these relationships, and why do they raise concerns about potential conflicts of interest?

LIPTON: In the case of a business partner who is going to be developing the hotels, he and the Trump family have become relatively close. There are many photographs of them with Donald Trump Jr., Eric Trump. He visited the Trump Towers. And they are side partners in this deal, and a deal which is already paying somewhere between $1 million and $10 million a year - that's a big range but we don't know the exact amount, it's in the financial disclosure reports - to the Trump Organization. So they are going to be working quite closely because not only will the Trump name be on those towers, but the Trump Organization will be managing the properties.

CORNISH: Now, in what ways could this complicate the U.S. relationship with Indonesia? Is that the concern here?

LIPTON: Any time you have a president whose family is involved in international financial business arrangements, it creates at a minimum a question as to will those business relationships affect the president or his administration in terms of how they interact with that foreign country. And so simply having a business relationship with a prominent, you know, businessman in that country is an unusual and unprecedented thing in American history. On the surface there's that, but then in this case it's more complicated because his business partner in Indonesia has political ambitions himself. He ran for vice president unsuccessfully. And he's talking already about possibly running for president of Indonesia. So this guy is a political figure as well as a business leader.

CORNISH: We've heard about how the Trump family has been dealing with their charitable foundations and projects. Can you talk about what action the Trump Organization has taken in the aftermath of the election? Have we actually seen fewer deals or deals dropped? What's been going on?

LIPTON: There have been a number of deals that they are pulling out of or they're terminating including in Argentina, in Brazil, in Azerbaijan, in the country of Georgia, and at least one project in India that they have told The New York Times in a series of interviews that they are no longer going to go ahead with. In some cases, for example, there's a hotel in Rio that is already constructed that they're going to remove the Trump name from. And there's also a building in Azerbaijan that's largely completed which that - will no longer have the Trump name, but it has not yet opened. And in those cases, they're saying that the partners did not comply with the standards of the marketing and branding agreements, and so therefore they are terminating those.

So there are quite a number in different places around the world where they are pulling out of, and that will make their situation slightly less complicated. But there are still many others that will be on the books and continue to go forward while he's president.

CORNISH: Eric Lipton is an investigative reporter for The New York Times. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.

LIPTON: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.