Donald Trump's decision to congratulate Erdogan on Turkish referendum win could point to something disturbing

Mythili Sampathkumar
Donald Trump's congratulatory call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan points to a larger issue of business conflicts (SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images)

Donald Trump’s congratulatory call to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after the country’s referendum points to a larger problem with Mr Trump’s business ties around the world.

Mr Erdogan’s victory was seen as a power grab by many that would “cement his autocratic rule over the country,” as the New York Times reported.

And with the government only securing a tiny margin of victory, Mr Erdogan most likely would not have won if the referendum had met recognised standards of fairness.

The only other leaders to congratulate Mr Erdogan were those of Qatar, Djibouti, Guinea and the Palestinian militant movement Hamas.

The call may not just about Mr Trump’s preference for brash leaders like himself, but could point to a deeper problem of conflicts of interest with international Trump real estate business.

“Are the president’s comments toward Erdogan related to his support for a Trump property? We can’t know, but it’s a question we unfortunately are forced to ask,” Jordan Libowitz, a spokesman for Washington, DC-based Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, told the Huffington Post.

Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter, tweeted a thank you note in 2012 to Mr Erdogan for coming to the opening of Trump Towers in Istanbul.

Mr Erdogan’s new authoritarian capabilities are of particular concern to the US because Turkey is an ally in Nato.

Mr Trump admitted that he “said [Nato] was obsolete. It’s no longer obsolete” after speaking with Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in April 2017.

The “strongman” ties do not end with Mr Erdogan either. Mr Trump has close ties to Jose Antonio, a real estate developer in the Philippines, who was appointed as a special envoy to the US by controversial leader Rodrigo Duterte.

Beyond Turkey and the Philippines, there are concerns with Mr Trump’s upcoming meeting with Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri who, along with his father, had real estate dealings with Mr Trump in the 1980s in New York.

Mr Trump’s business rapidly expanded in the city during that decade, in part securing his pop culture icon status.

Mr Macri is visiting the White House to discuss strengthening the trade relationship between the two countries. The Trump organisation has ongoing construction projects in Buenos Aires.

Another questionable tie is with former Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli, who fled his country on insider trading charges and is now said to be living in Miami despite Panama’s extradition request.

Not only does the Trump organisation have real estate holdings in Panama City, but Mr Martinelli was invited to Mr Trump’s inauguration earlier this year.

Other issues are created when the Trump organisation rents out spaces in its buildings.

The state-owned Qatar Airlines and Saudi Prince Mutaib bin Abdulaziz Al Saud rent or own working and living quarters in Trump-owned properties, muddling the US's official relationship with these countries.