Trump Touted His Turkish Business Partner In A Call With President Erdogan – Huffington Post

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WASHINGTON ― When President-elect Donald Trump spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Nov. 9, he mentioned one of his Turkish business partners as a “close friend” and passed on his remarks that he is “your great admirer.”

The twinned Trump Towers bear the president-elect’s name in Istanbul. Dogan Holding, a massive media and real estate conglomerate in Turkey, owns the conjoined buildings and pays the Trump Organization to license the Trump name and brand. It can now rely on that name and brand to be sitting in the Oval Office and singing its praises to President Erdogan.

In his call with the Turkish leader, Trump passed on praise for Erdogan from Mehmet Ali Yalcindag, son-in-law of Dogan Holding owner Aydin Dogan and former president of the Dogan Media Group. His wife, Arzuhan Dogan Yalcindage, sits on the board of Dogan Holding. He’s friends with the Trump family and had worked closely on the Trump Towers project in Istanbul. On election night, he attended Trump’s shocking victory celebration at the New York Hilton in Midtown Manhattan.

Trump’s praise for Mehmet Ali Yalcindag was first reported by Amberin Zaman in the independent Turkish paper Diken. Zaman’s report has since been picked up by other Turkish newspapers and television stations.

Vouching for his Turkish business partner in the call with Erdogan is just the most recent sign of Trump’s near-impossible task in avoiding the significant conflicts of interest his global real estate business presents. During the campaign he promised to separate himself from his business and to work only for the American people.

“I wouldn’t ever be involved because I wouldn’t care about anything but our country, anything,” he said in January.

Since his election, Trump has declared that he would hand off his business to three of his adult children, Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric Trump, in a so-called blind trust. He has done no such thing. Instead, he appointed his children to the executive committee of his presidential transition ― blending his business with his government activities.

One week after his election, he welcomed three of his Indian business partners to Trump Tower in Manhattan. The Trump Organization is involved in at least five real estate deals in India. Ivanka Trump, despite her supposed separate role as head of the Trump business, joined her father last week for his in-person meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The president-elect also reportedly handed the phone to Ivanka during a conversation with Argentinian President Mauricio Macri. Trump reportedly discussed the possibility of speeding up the permit process for a building that would bear his name in Buenos Aires. Spokesmen for both Macri and Trump denied that any such discussion took place. 

Further, Trump recently told British politician and former head of the UK Independence Party Nigel Farage that he should help lead the opposition to offshore wind farms in Britain. Trump has long opposed the construction of such offshore wind farms near his golf course in Scotland. When the New York Times asked Trump on Tuesday if he had this conversation with Farage, he said, “I might have brought it up.”

Murad Sezer / Reuters

Trump Towers Istanbul are conjoined office and residence towers with a shopping mall.
Norm Eisen, the former top ethics official for President Barack Obama and former ambassador to the Czech Republic, called Trump’s references to his business partner in his conversation with Erdogan “entirely improper,” “wrong” and “reprehensible.”

“There should be a big, beautiful wall between his personal interests and the public interest,” Eisen said. “It’s only a matter of time before not only will his voters and the more than half of the voters who chose someone else get fed up, but when you disrespect these boundaries it’s an invitation to people to disrespect them back.”

For now, Trump’s touting of Yalcindag provides a major benefit for the company and its leadership. There is a reason the company’s stock briefly surged after Trump’s victory. In recent years, the Dogan Media Group has butted heads with the authoritarian Erdogan as he sought to punish dissenting media.

“It will give them a layer of protection,” said Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East program at the Wilson Center, a nonpartisan policy forum. “Not because Trump will necessarily defend them, but because the Turkish government will think twice about going after them because the president of the United States is supporting them and, also, Erdogan is really looking for Trump to change many of Obama’s policies, especially in Syria and with respect to Iran. So he’s not going after anything that would upset or annoy Trump.”

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