Sassounian: Trump Risks Tarnishing Image for a Fistful of Azeri Dollars

The last thing Donald Trump needs these days is one more controversy. Then again, Trump thrives on controversy and most probably would welcome any publicity—positive or negative—as long as his name is in the headlines.

Due to his prominent name and bluntness, Trump is leading the large field of 17 Republican candidates for president of the United States, according to the latest national polls.

A few years ago when Trump agreed to lend his name to a hotel in Azerbaijan, he could not have predicted that associating with a notorious Baku oligarch would not only reflect negatively on his political ambitions, but also create a serious conflict of interest should he become president.

Even though the hotel would carry his name, Trump is neither the builder nor owner of “Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku.” Nevertheless, he earns “lucrative management fees for lending his name and expertise to the project,” according to Russ Choma, author of a critical article in Mother Jones magazine last week, titled, “Donald Trump is Doing Business with a Controversial Azerbaijani Oligarch.”

Trump’s recently filed financial disclosures, a requirement for presidential candidates, revealed that his company received $2.5 million from Baku in 2014, even though the hotel is slated to open its doors later this year. Trump estimates his total wealth to be worth over $10 billion.

Choma reports that “Trump’s partner in the venture is Anar Mammadov, a 34-year-old billionaire playboy whose father serves as Azerbaijan’s transportation minister.” He goes on to cite several major human rights organizations, describing Azerbaijan as “one of the world’s most repressive and corrupt countries due to the regime’s intolerance for dissent and the high degree of concentration of wealth among the politically powerful and their families.”

Mammadov, said to be worth over $1 billion, is chairman of the Garant Company, the builder and owner of the Trump Tower. His father, Zia, is closely linked to Azerbaijan’s autocratic president, Ilham Aliyev.

More significantly for Armenians, Choma reports that Anar Mammadov “heads the Azerbaijan American Alliance, a group that at one point was registered with the U.S. Department of Justice as a foreign lobbyist. Last year, the Alliance spent more than $2.8 million lobbying Congress and State Department to improve U.S.- Azerbaijan relations.”

According to, the Alliance has spent $11.5 million in the last 4 years on lobbying U.S. lawmakers and officials. Choma reveals that “in 2011, Mammadov himself registered under the Foreign Agent Registration Act in connection with his work with the Alliance. Though he is still featured prominently on the organization’s website, Mammadov is no longer listed as a foreign lobbyist. But he still seems to be very keen on courting powerful American politicians. Mammadov’s personal website features a gushing recap of the group’s Washington gala last November, which he hosted. The event was attended by Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Richard Burr (R-Ala.), Mark Pryor (D-Ark.), and Mark Warner (D-Va.), and a bipartisan slew of House members. … Mammadov’s Facebook page is full of photos of the businessman posing with other politicians, including House Speaker John Boehner.”

Donald Trump proudly announced that Trump International Hotel & Tower Baku “represents the unwavering standard of excellence of the Trump Organization and our involvement in only the best global development projects. When we open in 2015, visitors and residents will experience a luxurious property unlike anything else in Baku—it will be among the finest in the world.”

During her recent visit to Baku, Ivanka Trump echoed her father’s confidence in the success of the hotel project: “This incredible building reflects the highest level of luxury and refinement, with extraordinary architecture inspired by the Caspian Sea and sophisticated interiors that seamlessly blend contemporary style with timeless appeal. We are looking forward to bringing our unparalleled Trump services and amenities to Azerbaijan.”

The Trump Tower in Baku has 33 floors and is shaped like the mast of a sailing ship. It includes 75 luxury residences, 190 guestrooms, a spa, fitness center, indoor swimming pool, business center, ballroom, retail stores, bar, and restaurants, surrounded by gardens, promenades, and fountains.

Donald Trump, by associating himself with questionable business partners in an oppressive regime, risks tarnishing his reputation for a fistful of dollars in the midst of a presidential campaign!


Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.


  1. Axerbaijan is same as other Islamic oil Sheikhdom. Lobbies will make the most, in order their respective corrupted dictators stay in power!

  2. You have not said anything about how Trump feels about Armenia or The Genocide. I do not care if he deals with Baku as long as he promises to recognize The Genocide.

  3. Lobbyists, for better or for worse, are a fact of American politics and exist for almost any topic. Being or hiring a lobbyist is legal and open to any group for any topic.

    I would hope that if Mr. Trump were elected, not very likely, he would immediately take steps to avoid even an appearance of a conflict of interest.

  4. I think the “risk tarnishing his image” ship has sailed for Trump. That said, I am thoroughly enjoying the spectacle of his presidential bid.

  5. Donald Trump can become US president when pigs fly. He has no clue about foreign policy. He is obviously a racist for all the nasty remarks he recently made about the Mexicans. To this day, he does not believe president Obama was born in the states even though he had to have been born in the country to qualify for the presidential run. He is a hypocrite. For someone who likes to pick on foreigners and stereotype an entire group of people, even though most of those people were born in the US, he sure likes to shop in foreign markets when it comes to all his current and former wives with the exception of one I believe. I wonder how he would feel if he was told he does not qualify to run for president because the first lady can not be foreign-born, not to mention she has to have the ability to form proper english sentences!

    He is a joke and the reason why he is the so-called front runner in his party speaks volumes about the sorry state of mind his followers are in rather than it says anything about his qualifications for president. Right now he is like a meteor that sparks but then plummets and disappears into oblivion. Let’s not forget that Obama himself was elected president by accident more or less. The country’s demographics had changed, more minorities qualified to vote compared to previous elections, the country was sick of being dragged into fabricated wars (with the exception of the war on Afghanistan) AND that there was no one qualified in both parties to run as president at the time for various reasons.

    Donald Trump is a loud-mouth narcissist who thinks the entire world revolves around him when presidents are supposed to be calm, discreet and selfless because they are supposed to serve the public and not the other way around. The only votes he should get is if he runs for the New York’s Manhattan real estate, hotel and golf association!

    • I’d have to disagree with some things here. Obama was voted in, in spite of minorities, not because of them. As always there are specific premeditated plans in American politics. Probably a quasi-Muslim president was installed to try to “appease the Islamic world” after “Bush the Crusader” had caused all their rage, while America went about its imperialistic business as usual. And obviously the plan by American “visionaries” backfired for what Americans want in terms of freedoms and rights. For what the American voter intended, the Obama regime proved to be a lot worse than the Bush regime, not that it actually matters, because they are all cut from the same cloth, and answer to the same lobbies.

      And in addition, that cringe worthy fool McCain contributed to the Obama campaign greatly with his ridiculous choice of a clueless airhead for vice-president. In 2008 American politics presented to the public all the worst for their choice. And the worst won instead of the worst of the worst.

      I don’t know about Trump’s worthiness to be in politics, but one thing he said right was he doesn’t need anyone’s money, which is one feature of a politician who can solve certain problems, that is, if he is the right person for the job. Indeed he may have no clue about foreign policy, but how bad could it be, we have already seen how much the “experts” know about foreign policy. Bottom line, the USA will do what it does and continue its foreign policy based on corporate and foreign lobbies, regardless of who is president, ‘democrat’ or ‘republican’.

  6. Once at the sixth Annual Gala Dinner of the American Turkish Society in New York in 2012, when asked who he would hire as an “apprentice” from Turkey, the reality show star answered, “The boss of Turkey, Erdoğan.

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