US President-elect Donald Trump has stirred controversy in the US with words of praise for Damac Properties chairman Hussain Sajwani, his business partner from Dubai, during his New Year Eve party at Mar-a-Lago resort, Florida.
In early December 2016, Trump said he “will make no new business deals during his time in the White House”, as his business interests will be managed by his children - daughter Ivanka and sons Eric and Donald Jr. He will take over at the Oval Office from January 20.
“Hussain and the whole family, the most beautiful people, are here from Dubai tonight. And they’re seeing it and they’re loving it,” Trump said addressing 800 paying guests at his Florida estate on Saturday night in a video released by CNN.
Sajwani's Damac Properties has had commercial ties with The Trump Organisation since 2013 when it launched the “Trump International Golf Club” as part of its $6 billion (AED22 billion) Akoya development in Dubai.
Trump’s commercial ties with Dubai date back to October 2005, when he first proposed to build “Trump International Hotel & Tower Dubai” in a joint venture with Nakheel. The project has been cancelled.
Trump's transition team has defended the speech, stating, “The President-elect and Sajwani didn’t discuss their business partnership in Florida.”
“They had no formal meetings or professional discussions. Their interactions were social,” Hope Hicks, Trump's spokeswoman, told CNN.
Separately, Kellyanne Conway, Trump adviser, told CNN's Anderson Cooper on 'Anderson Cooper 360': “This man is allowed to have a New Year's Eve celebration with his friends, or his business partners, or his acquaintances.
"I spent a lot of time at Mar-a-Lago during this break, including I had dinner with the Hussains one night ... Hussain and his wife, absolutely lovely people.”
NBC News reported on Sunday that Sajwani was hoping to “deepen” his relationship with the Trump brand, while in November 2016 he told CNNMoney he was expecting President-elect’s “strong brand” value to have a positive impact on his property developments.