Donald Trump, Jr. and hedge fund manager Gentry Beach have been friends for the past twenty years or so, and both men have claimed their relationship is strictly personal; but new reports suggest this is less than accurate.
Trump, Jr. and Gentry indeed are college and hunting buddies dating back to their time at the University of Pennsylvania, but the Associated Press has obtained records showing that Gentry also has enjoyed special access to top officials within the Trump administration.
Records also indicate the two have been involved in business deals together, both recently and as far back as 2000.
Per the AP, Beach was granted a meeting last year with National Security Council officials to pitch a plan that would ease sanctions against Venezuela in order to allow U.S. companies access to the nation's oil, which ethics experts say raises questions about Trump, Jr. and Beach's financial connections.
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 NSC did not bite on Beach's pitch, and the Trump Organization said in a statement that Trump, Jr. has played no role in helping Beach meet “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.
However, the two apparently did business together through the years:
In a 2010 deposition, Trump Jr. testified that he had twice made investments in ventures that Beach had an interest in: $200,000 in a dry Texas oil well managed by Beach’s father and an undisclosed amount in a failed mining stock affiliated with Beach’s uncle.
In August 2008, while the two men were golfing together in New York, Beach suggested Trump Jr. sell his shares in the tanking stock “if you need the tax loss,” according to a copy of his testimony filed in a long running civil lawsuit between Beach and a former employer, hedge funder Paul Touradji.
Beach’s father, Gary Beach, was convicted last month of federal bankruptcy fraud after a seven-day trial in Dallas.
And just last year, Beach started a business, Future Venture LLC, signaling no connection to the Trumps; however, Trump, Jr. is listed on a disclosure report obtained by the AP as the company's president, secretary, and treasurer.
The purpose of the limited liability company could not be determined from the filings. The Trump Organization said it was set up to pursue technology investments.
All of these connections and coincidences, along with the fact that Beach raised millions for Donald Trump, Sr. during the presidential campaign and served as finance vice chairman for the inaugural committee, leave ethics experts wondering if the Trump, Jr. has crossed a 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.”