Donald Trump Jr. said any talk of his family profiting from his father's presidency is "nonsense" during a trip to India that has raised ethical concerns about using the name of the American president to promote international business ventures.
The eldest son of President Donald Trump said his family is actually missing out on business opportunities because his father pledged to conduct no new foreign business while he was in office. Trump Jr. told Indian television channel CNBC-TV18 on Tuesday that when critics talk about them "profiteering from the presidency and all this nonsense" they forget about "the opportunity cost of the deals that we were not able to do."
"It's sort of a shame. Because we put on all these impositions on ourselves and essentially got no credit for actually doing that ... for doing the right thing," he added.
Trump Jr., who along with his brother Eric runs the Trump Organization, arrived in India on Tuesday to meet the promoters and buyers of luxury, Trump-branded homes in four Indian cities and is scheduled to speak about Indo-Pacific relations at a business summit along with Prime Minister Narenda Modi.
His visit prompted a U.S. senator to ask if the embassy in New Delhi had provided any aid or guidance. Sen. Robert Menendez, ranking Democratic on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, wrote that he expected the U.S. State Department and embassy would treat Trump Jr. like any other American on private business and "will take every effort to avoid any perception of special treatment or a conflict of interest."
In the letter to Ambassador Kenneth Juster, Menendez asked if diplomats had briefed Trump Jr. during his visit or provided any support staff. Menendez also asked Juster whether any steps were taken "to make clear to the Indian government and citizens of the country that Mr. Trump in no way speaks on behalf of the United States government."
The U.S. State Department, responding to questions from AP, said the embassy was supporting the Secret Service team responsible for Trump Jr. but otherwise had no role in his visit. It said while the State Department assists with booking hotels and other travel arrangements, such costs are paid by the requesting agencies, such as the Secret Service.
The department also said that while some U.S. Embassy employees may attend the business summit where Trump Jr. is speaking, the ambassador would not be attending nor would he be meeting with Trump Jr.
Media access to his events in the country has been limited and only news organizations chosen by his team have had access to him.
With five projects under the Trump brand, India is its largest market outside the United States.. The Trump Organization charges a licensing fee to its Indian partners who build the properties under the Trump name. A luxury complex is already open in the central city of Pune are the others are under construction in the coastal cities of Mumbai and Kolkata and two in the New Delhi suburb of Gurgaon.
All the projects were signed before President Trump took office, but promoting even existing business has raised ethics concerns.
Trump Jr. has made several visits to India over the years and has repeatedly talked of great business opportunities in the country.
AP Writer Stephen Braun contributed to this report from Washington.
This story has been corrected to show that Trump Jr. made the comments on Tuesday, not Wednesday.