Ahead of his January 2017 inauguration, Trump said he gave “complete and total” Trump Organization management control to sons Donald Jr. and Eric – while retaining ownership of his business interests.
He hasn’t sold them or placed his assets in a blind trust. The Trump Organization pledged not to get involved in new foreign dealing-making while DLT remains president.
Office of Government Ethics head Walter Shaub earlier called his conflicts of interest plan “meaningless. (It) doesn’t meet (proper) ethic(al) standards,” he said.
Saudi Arabia is a super-wealthy family dictatorship masquerading as a legitimate nation, responsible for horrendous civil and human rights abuses throughout its history.
It’s also a highly valued client state, the most important Arab world one because of its huge oil reserves and around $750 billion of its wealth invested in US assets.
Along with most others in Washington, Trump intends going all-out to assure nothing interferes with US/Saudi relations – not the kingdom’s abduction and likely murder of Jamal Khashoggi or anything else.
DLT has had longstanding business ties to Saudi Arabia, including distress sales to royal family members when needing cash to meet debt obligations.
Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal earlier said he bailed Trump out twice. During the 2016 presidential campaign, DLT slammed the Clinton Foundation for accepting large donations from the Saudis and other wealthy Arab regimes when Hillary was secretary of state.
Yet in 2015 as a presidential candidate, he created and registered eight companies to do business in Saudi Arabia.
During an August 2015 campaign rally, he said “Saudi Arabia, I get along great with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
In January 2016, he said “I…want to protect Saudi Arabia. But Saudi Arabia is going to have to help us economically.”
Kingdom wealth is used to buy influence. According to the Wall Street Journal in January 2017, the Washington-based Trump International Hotel was paid about $270,000 by the Saudi lobbying firm Qorvis MSLGroup – for lodging, catering, and related expenses.
Nearly another $200,000 was spent at the hotel as part of a lobbying effort against the so-called Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA).
It amended the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act and Anti-Terrorism Act. Without mentioning Riyadh specifically, it lets families of 9/11 victims sue the kingdom for what happened – diverting attention from the high crime’s real perpetrators.
As president, Trump chose Saudi Arabia for his first foreign trip, sealing a $110 billion arms deal, along with a memorandum of intent to supply the kingdom with weapons worth around $350 billion over the next decade.
Addressing its officials in Riyadh, he called despotic Saudi Arabia a “magnificent kingdom,” stressing he was “honored to be received by such gracious hosts,” noting as well “the enduring partnership between our two countries.”
Back in Washington, he turned truth on its head, bragging about how deals in Riyadh would “bring many thousands of jobs to our country…millions of jobs ultimately.”
International policy expert William Hartung debunked his claim, saying some deals agreed on in Riyadh may never come to fruition, others perhaps to create more jobs in the kingdom than in America.
Ahead of his inauguration, Trump actively pursued deals with Saudi investors on building hotels in the kingdom. At least two of his US properties benefitted hugely from Saudi business.
Does his personal business relationship with Saudi officials unduly influence his official dealings with the kingdom as president?
During crown prince Mohammed bin Salman’s visit to Washington last spring, Trump called US/Saudi relations “probably as good as (they’ve) ever been (and) will probably only get better.”
For its part, Saudi outreach to Trump and his family, notably son-in-law Jared Kushner, through flattery and deals struck in Riyadh paid large dividends to the kingdom, including nothing interfering in how it operates.
Saudi Arabia is the Arab world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. Yet its citizens were excluded from Trump’s executive order, banning citizens from designated majority-Muslim countries from entry into America.
Saudi influence over and enrichment of Trump and his family members assure its interests are served in Washington.
The Khashoggi incident is a temporary disruption in otherwise strong US/Saudi relations.
It’ll have no long-lasting negative effects – not as long as kingdom oil keeps flowing and its wealth is invested in US assets.