NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump Jr. has a previously undisclosed business relationship with a longtime hunting buddy who helped raise millions of dollars for his father’s 2016 presidential campaign and has had special access to top government officials since the election, records obtained by The Associated Press show.
The president’s eldest son and Texas hedge fund manager Gentry Beach have been involved in business deals together dating back to the mid-2000s and recently formed a company — Future Venture LLC — despite past claims by both men that they were just friends, according to previously unreported court records and other documents obtained by AP.
Beach last year met with top National Security Council officials to push a plan that would curb U.S. sanctions in Venezuela and open up business for U.S. companies in the oil-rich nation.
Ethics experts said their financial entanglements raised questions about whether Beach’s access to government officials and advocacy for policy changes were made possible by the president’s son’s influence — and could also benefit the Trump family’s bottom line.
“This feeds into the same concerns that we’ve had all along: The really fuzzy line between the presidency and the Trumps’ companies,” said Noah Bookbinder, who leads Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a public policy group. “Donald Trump Jr. sort of straddles that line all the time.”
Last February, just as Trump Sr. was settling into office, Beach and an Iraqi-American businessman met with top officials at the National Security Council to present their plan for lightening U.S. sanctions in Venezuela in exchange for opening business opportunities for U.S. companies, according to a former U.S. official with direct knowledge of the proposal.
Career foreign policy experts were instructed to take the meetings, first reported last April by the website Mic.com, at the direction of the West Wing because Beach and the businessman were friends of Trump Jr., the official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive government work, said that inside the NSC lawyers raised red flags about the appropriateness of the meeting.
The U.S. didn’t act on the pitch, which would have gone against the president’s hard-line stance on the South American nation and its president, Nicolas Maduro.
Seven months after the Venezuela meetings, Beach attended a private lunch in Dallas between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Republican donors, including businessmen with petroleum interests, according to a copy of Zinke’s schedule.
The Interior Department didn’t respond to a request for comment about the meetings. A White House official said Trump Jr. didn’t arrange Beach’s visit to the NSC and his proposal was dismissed.
In a statement, the Trump Organization said Trump Jr. has never played a role arranging meetings “with anyone at the White House or any other government agency.”
Alan Garten, the Trump Organization’s general counsel, acknowledged that Trump Jr. had invested with Beach in the past, but referred AP to a statement released by the company in April, which said their relationship was “strictly personal.”
In a statement provided by a friend, Beach said it was “absolutely not true” that he’d ever “used my longtime personal friendship with Donald Trump Jr.” to influence government decision making.</p>
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