Trump Sons Skipping Event That Promised Donors Access to President-Elect

Questions emerged about the group offer of access to Trump to anonymous donors.

ByBENJAMIN SIEGEL, JOHN SANTUCCI and KATHERINE FAULDERS
December 22, 2016, 12:20 AM

— -- President-elect Donald Trump's eldest sons are now expected to skip an inauguration weekend fundraiser, according to transition sources, after questions emerged about the group's offer of access to Trump to anonymous donors.

Billed as a benefit for unnamed conservation charities, the Camouflage and Cufflinks event, planned for Jan. 21, initially promised donors access to the Trump family, according to a draft invitation first obtained by TMZ and confirmed by ABC News.

On Wednesday the Trump team said Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. would no longer be attending the event, which touted their appearance and listed them as "honorary co-chairmen." A senior transition source told ABC News, "They are not going, period."

Senior-level transition sources also confirmed Wednesday night that Eric Trump will no longer solicit donations for his Eric Trump Foundation, given his father’s status as the president-elect and possibility that contributors would support the foundation in an effort to get his father’s ear. The move was first reported by The New York Times.

Ethics experts were skeptical of the event and the group, which will not be required to disclose its donors and is in the process of applying for status as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.

The Opening Day Foundation, which organized the event, listed the Trump sons as directors in a filing with the Texas secretary of state's office last week. Neither one was aware they were named, according to a senior Trump transition official with direct knowledge of the episode.

They asked the Texas secretary of state to remove them from the filing and are no longer listed as managers of the foundation. The lawyer who filed the corporate registration form for Opening Day listing the Trumps could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks said Tuesday that the Trumps did not approve the early draft invitation, which said donors who contribute $500,000 or $1 million would get private receptions with Donald Trump Sr., as well as a multiday hunting or fishing trip with one or both of his sons.

An amended invitation obtained by ABC News said donors would get private receptions with "VIPs and celebrities," rather than the 45th president, and a "multiday outdoor excursion" for four people.

The updated invitation still touted the family's involvement in the event.

"Opening Day is your opportunity to play a significant role as our family commemorates the inauguration of our father and friend, President Donald J. Trump," it reads. "Join us as we celebrate conservation — America's outdoor heritage."

Despite the Trump transition team's repudiation, the family's role in the event remained unclear as late as Wednesday morning.

Mark Brinkerhoff, a spokesman for the event, said in an interview Tuesday that Eric Trump and Donald Trump Jr. were "confirmed to be there" on inauguration weekend.

But on Wednesday he said, "As honorary chairmen, they are invited guests. They can show up if they want to show up."

Gentry Beach, a director of the Opening Day Foundation and co-chair of the event, did not respond to questions from ABC News about the Trump sons' involvement and whether donors will receive hunting or fishing trips with them in exchange for contributions.

Beach is close to Donald Trump Jr., as is Tommy Hicks Jr., a Dallas businessman and co-chair of the event. Hicks did not respond to a request for comment.

Last week the Eric Trump Foundation was criticized for backing an online auction for a 45-minute coffee date with the president-elect’s daughter Ivanka Trump. The contest was closed and taken off the auction website after a series of reports from The New York Times. The paper spoke with three businessmen who said they bid for the prize to speak with her about the Trump administration's plans and advocate for specific issues.

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