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Donald Trump has pledged to keep his distance from his businesses and vowed that his company would not enter into any new foreign deals during his presidency. But during the recent World Economic Forum in Davos, Trump hobnobbed with at least one of his foreign business partners, Dubai billionaire Hussain Sajwani, once again highlighting the blurry lines between his corporate empire and his presidency.
Before taking office last year, Trump and his lawyer held a press conference to explain the steps he was taking to insulate himself from conflicts. During the event, Trump brought up Sajwani, who heads the real estate company DAMAC, to illustrate why the American people need not worry that he would put his own interests ahead of the country’s.
In 2014, Trump had licensed his name for a luxury golf development that Sajwani’s company was constructing outside Dubai. Since then, he has reported earning between $2 million and $10 million on the deal. And at the press conference, he maintained that Sajwani had recently approached him with a more lucrative venture. “Over the weekend I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai with a very, very, very amazing man, a great great developer from the Middle East,” Trump said. “Hussein, DAMAC, a friend of mine, a great guy. I was offered $2 billion to do a deal in Dubai, a number of deals, and I turned it down.”
Still, Sajwani preserved his connection to Trump. He was among a handful of Trump business partners who received VIP treatment at Trump’s inauguration. During the festivities, Sajwani’s son posted a picture of himself with the new president on Instagram. His post was accompanied by an enthusiastic caption stating that he was looking forward to a “lucrative eight years.”
Hussain Sajwani turned up again at Trump’s side in Davos over the weekend. The elder Sajwani Instagrammed his encounter with Trump, saying he had run into “his dear friend” at a reception at the close of the multiday event.
Neither the White House nor DAMAC Properties would say what the business partners discussed.
According to Sajwani’s Instagram feed, he didn’t meet with just Trump while in Davos—he also snagged face time with Trump’s embattled secretary of commerce, Wilbur Ross.
The Trump-Sajwani project—which includes the Trump International Golf Club Dubai and the luxury gated community that accompanies it, the Trump Estates at DAMAC Hills—opened in early 2017, shortly after Trump took office. Trump’s sons, Eric and Donald Trump Jr., jetted to Dubai to attend the unveiling of the new development. Trump Jr. returned to Dubai later that year to visit Sajwani, who memorialized their meeting in another Instagram post. Though the Trump Organization had supposedly sworn off new foreign deals, Sajwani wrote that he and the president’s eldest son had discussed “new ideas.”