An attendee of a New Year's Eve party got video of Donald Trump
Trump praised the members of his Mar-a-Lago club in attendance
Donald Trump gave a lengthy description of his electoral victory, and lavished praise upon a Dubai business partner, during a ten-minute speech to 800 paying guests at his Florida estate Saturday night.
At points throughout his address, Trump name-checked prominent attendees, including “Hussain and the whole family,” an apparent reference to his billionaire business partner in Dubai, Hussain Sajwani.
DAMAC Properties, Sajwani’s company, has built the Trump International Course Dubai. They are currently working on a second course, designed by Tiger Woods, which is set to open in 2018.
“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, referring to the ornate Grand Ballroom that he built at Mar-a-Lago.
Video of the speech was provided to CNN by a person who attended the party.
Trump’s comments highlight the complications he faces separating himself from his existing business relationships. Even if Trump creates a wall between himself and his children running his company, he still will know the identity of his pre-existing business partners.
“President-elect Trump is using his largesse as President-elect to enhance his existing business relationships,” political law attorney Ken Gross told CNN. “Apparently, in his view, this practice does not run afoul of the representations he has made to date regarding the disentanglement of his business and official functions. It remains to be seen if this will ever get sorted out.”
Trump’s transition team said 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,” said Hope Hicks, Trump’s spokeswoman.
And Kellyanne Conway, a top Trump adviser, defended the President-elect.
“This man is allowed to have a New Year’s Eve celebration with his friends, or his business partners, or his acquaintances,” she told CNN’s Anderson Cooper on “Anderson Cooper 360.” “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.”
She added: “If you took that example to it’s extreme, nobody would be able to be friends with anybody else.”
“Nothing has changed,” Niall McLoughlin, Vice President of Corporate Communication and Marketing at DAMAC told CNN when asked where the terms of business have changes since the election.
“They like each other’s company and they were together over the new year as social friends,” he said.
When asked if Trump or the Trump Organization have outlined a new structure to avoid a conflict of interest, McLoughlin said “We have been dealing with Donald Trump’s children and family over the last three years - Ivanka, Eric and Donald Jr.”
“I would be speculating if I commented on any changes in the future,” he added.
“Our relationship is with the Trump Organization,” he said “but Mr Sajwani has a relationship that “goes back over a decade” with Mr Trump.
Sajwani’s son Abbas posted a photo over the weekend from Mar-a-Lago. “Scenic,” was how he captioned a picture from the private club’s pool. Photos provided to CNN also show Sajwani and his family attending Mar-a-Lago’s Christmas Eve dinner and interacting with Trump.
Trump and Sanjwani’s relationship began in 2005. They originally had plans to build a tower in Dubai, but canceled the idea after the global financial crisis.
Trump scrapped a December news conference in which he was set to announce his plans to address his conflicts of interests. Trump has said he will make an announcement sometime before the inauguration. Speaking this weekend at Mar-A-Lago, the first billionaire President-Elect seemed unfazed by the conflicts.
“It is not a big deal. You people are making that a big deal, the business,” Trump said. “It’s actually a very simple situation.”
In his 10-minute speech Saturday, Trump described in detail his electoral victory, providing a state-by-state recap of places most expected him to loose. He claimed his wife Melania’s late campaign speech in Pennsylvania helped turn the state in his favor.
He told the well-heeled crowd he was planning an aggressive beginning to his administration, vowing to loosen regulations and end President Barack Obama’s signature health care law.
“Regulations are coming off, we’re going to get rid of Obamacare,” he said, also vowing again to construct a border wall between the United States and Mexico.
Trump also provided more detail about his bid to reduce the costs of the new Air Force One. He said that when he met with US military brass following the election, they informed him that a new aircraft would cost in the $4 billion range — a price he deemed unacceptable. Trump had made the claim previously, though hadn’t identified where the price figures came from.
US officials, including at the White House, have suggested the $4 billion is inflated. During his speech, Trump claimed to have cut $1 billion from the price tag for the new presidential aircraft.
Trump called the generals who he met with “beautiful,” and alleged they made “Tom Cruise look like dirt.”
Trump praised the members of his Mar-a-Lago club in attendance, who each paid $525 for a ticket to the annual New Years Eve party in the Grand Ballroom. He was less enthusiastic about their guests.
“I don’t really care too much about the guests. I don’t give a s*** about their guests,” Trump said.
And he repeated his harsh criticism of the media, claiming they were in the back of the room. (The press assigned to cover Trump’s movements was not present in the ballroom during Trump’s speech).
“They’re really garbage,” Trump said of the press.
CNN’s Cristina Alesci contributed to this report.