Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, is in India this week to promote his family’s real estate empire and more than $1 billion worth of luxury Trump Tower projects in four cities, but he still had time to praise India’s poor for their smiles.
“I don't mean to be glib about it, but you can see the poorest of the poor and there is still a smile on a face,” Trump said Tuesday in an interview with CNBC’s Indian affiliate. “It's a different spirit that you don't see in other parts of the world ... and I think there's something unique about that.”
Trump added, “I know some of the most successful people in the world, and some of them are the most miserable people in the world.”
Although India has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, a rising number of millionaires and a growing market for luxury goods and services, many of its 1.3 billion people still live in grinding poverty. The country had per capita income of $1,670 in 2016.
Trump Jr., 40, was born and raised in Manhattan and attended prep schools before graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, joining his father’s real estate business and appearing on his television program “The Apprentice.” After the election, the elder Trump did not divest himself from the business but turned over day-to-day operations of his company to Don Jr. and his middle son, Eric, which has raised concerns about conflicts of interest.
Trump Jr.'s meeting with a group of Russians in 2016 is under scrutiny by investigators looking into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Trump arrived on his family’s private jet Monday for a week of schmoozing and dinners with India’s top business leaders and to wine and dine buyers in the Trump Organization's latest project. The Trumps have a licensing deal with two Indian developers for two towers outside the capital, New Delhi, where luxury apartments range in price from $780,000 to $1.6 million and have private elevators and concierge service.
Full-page glossy newspaper ads trumpeting Trump’s arrival also tempted buyers to reserve an apartment (paying a booking fee of about $38,000) by Thursday to “join Mr. Donald Trump Jr. for a conversation and dinner” on Friday. The buyers' dinner has raised conflict of interest concerns and charges by watchdog groups.
“These ads illustrate the importance of Trump divesting from his business and the danger brought by his failure to divest. Trump's company is literally selling access to the president’s son overseas,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which is frequently critical of the first family.
Trump Jr. has dismissed charges of conflicts of interest as nonsense and said he hopes to continue expanding the brand’s footprint in India after his father leaves office.
“Few years ago, I said [India] would become our largest [market] because I really believed in the market.... I think it will continue to be the same when I am able to get back in the market and focus on the business side, on new deals again in the future, once my father is out of office,” Trump Jr. said in the CNBC interview.
In fact, he maintained that the family was not being given enough credit for the business they have lost because of self-imposed restrictions to avoid such perceptions of conflicts of interest.
“It’s sort of a shame. Because we put on all these impositions on ourselves and essentially got no credit for actually doing that," he said in the interview. “For doing the right thing,” he added.
Trump will also give a foreign policy speech titled “Reshaping Indo-Pacific Ties: The New Era of Cooperation” on Friday at a global business summit co-sponsored by the Economic Times newspaper, along with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
A State Department spokesman said Tuesday that Trump’s speech was not coordinated with the State Department and that she was not familiar with its contents.
The headline on this post has been changed to more accurately describe Donald Trump Jr.'s comments.