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Trump Jr.’s speech at a Dubai university raises ethics questions

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Trump previously threw stones at former opponent Hillary Clinton for her paid speeches.

Donald Trump Jr. spoke to American University graduates in Dubai, raising some conflicts of interest issues with the White House and paid appearances. CREDIT: AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File

Donald Trump Jr.’s paid commencement speech at American University earlier this week in Dubai is latest example of the Trump family potentially mixing business with politics.

But it’s not necessarily just whether or how much he was paid — the dollar amount isn’t known, butCBS News reported the university paid former President Bill Clinton $150,000 in 2002 — it’s that Trump Jr.’s speech could be seen as a way for Dubai’s leaders to curry favor with the White House. CBS reports that Dubai “helped found and holds a continuing stake in the school.”

Ahead of his commencement speech, Trump, Jr. went to Dubai to also discuss real estate opportunities in the country with Emirati billionaire Hussain Sajwani.

As Karen Young, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, D.C., told CBS, the speech helps the Trump brand, which in turn can lend political clout with governments.

“It hasn’t always been a positive name recognition in the UAE, especially after calls for the travel ban,” Young told CBS. “Some very prominent business people did not want an affiliation with Trump at all.”

“Since he has become president that has faded,” Young said. “The Trump brand is ascendant, you could say in the Gulf States.”

Ironically, throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, President Donald Trump frequently criticized his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton for receiving lavish speaking fees. These speaking fees — along with the contributions that foreign governments made to the Clinton Foundation — were alleged to be a way for foreign actors to influence Clinton’s policy decisions.

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Now a member of the Trump family is giving speeches at a university in which a Gulf state reportedly has a financial stake.

Potential conflicts of interest aren’t new to the Trump White House. Even before taking office, Trump continued to hold meetings with real estate developers in the U.S. and overseas, while also meeting heads of state. He also refused to put his business interests in a blind trust controlled by his elder children — who often double as White House advisers.


Trump Jr.’s speech at a Dubai university raises ethics questions was originally published in ThinkProgress on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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