It’s a remarkable story that begins inside Trump Tower on August 3, 2016, the day Donald Trump Jr. met with a longtime envoy to two oil-rich Gulf states – Saudi Arabia and the United States. United Arab Emirates – and their Israeli security guru as they promised to secretly help his father winning the presidential election this fall against Hillary Clinton.
The story is far from over, but the richest twist in the plot may – the emphasis on the word may – happened just a few weeks ago, just after completing a professional golf tour supported by the Saudi government a financially rewarding stopover That’s when a team of FBI agents broke into Trump’s main compound at Mar-a-Lago in Florida, looking for top-secret documents and evidence that the 45th president had violated the law on spying.
In between, there was enough drama to drive multiple seasons of a TV miniseries like The crown — from soon-to-be-disgraced national security adviser Michael Flynn secret nuclear transactions with Riyadh, to son-in-law Jared Kushner strange but close relationship with murderous de facto Saudi ruler Mohammed bin Salman (MBS), almost Seinfeld-ian subplots involving the sex life of billionaire Jeff Bezos, as well as the National Enquirer.
It’s no surprise, then, that once Americans absorbed the shock that an ex-president’s home had been raided by the FBI, so many people had the exact same thought. If Donald Trump wanted to take advantage of a treasure trove of sensitive and priceless documents – even nuclear secrets – the Saudis who had just blessed his New Jersey golf course with petrodollars were probably his friends.
Because we all knew something was wrong with Donald, Jared and Mohammed almost literally from day one – when Trump created Saudi Arabia, with his bizarre sword dances and glowing orbsthe very first international trip of his presidency (his most recent predecessors have all gone with Canada). It didn’t make diplomatic sense, but it made perfect sense that the man behind Trump Vodka would attach himself to the wealthiest kleptocracy in the world. Like the famous bank robber Willie Sutton said of his targets, that’s where the money is.
Let’s be clear: we don’t know what Trump was doing with those boxes of documents at Mar-a-Lago that weren’t supposed to be there. There is no evidence of any connection to Saudi Arabia, nor any known evidence that the reserve was shared with a foreign power – despite speculation over the government’s citation of espionage law. As far as we know, Trump is content to show sketches of new nuclear bombs to his golf partners.
But corruption is not only a known conflict of interest, but also the appearance of a conflict that causes citizens to lose faith in the process. When it comes to TrumpWorld’s tangled web of dealings with Persian Gulf states and particularly the Saudis, the issues go far beyond speculation about possible sharing of secrets. The real question is why has there not been a major, focused investigation into Trump’s Saudi ties so far.
What was the real story behind Flynn – forced by wrongdoing to quit as Trump’s first national security adviser after just a few weeks – peddling sensitive secret nuclear technology to the Saudis, a deal that would have benefited Flynn’s former firm but also Trump’s close friend, Tom Barrack, Trump’s inauguration fundraiser? Did the Trump team continue to work on this plan, as some whistleblowers feared, even after Flynn’s initial attempt was shot down?
Will Kushner – despite his problems getting a security clearance – share US intelligence with his good friend MBS around the same time the Saudi prince was rounding up potential rivals (even family members) and detaining them in a hotel in Riyadh where many complained of mistreatment? What, if anything, did Kushner or others in Trump’s orbit know in real time or even in advance about the brutal bonesaw murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi? Why have Trump and Kushner always been wrong on the side of absolve MBSeven as the CIA discovered that the prince was the architect of the murder?
Why wasn’t there more information about the astonishing report by cyber experts that Saudi Arabia was behind the hacking of mega-billionaire Jeff Bezos’ cell phone that exposed his extramarital affair (and ended at his wedding) and this evidence pointed to a WhatsApp message from MBS himself to Bezos that embedded the critical malware? Wasn’t Amazon’s Bezos – who personally owns The Washington Post – high on the list of Trump haters? How come the National Enquirer – which kept Trump’s secrets in a vault and apparently got a good deal to publish a saudi reminder magazine – ended up printing the dirt on Bezos?
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What about all that weird post-presidential stuff? Like the Saudi fund that invested $2 billion in Kushner’s vague and inexperienced venture capital fund, but only after MBS himself canceled board members who didn’t want to be on it? Did Kushner broker his deal while still a government official middle east tour in the final days of the Trump presidency, and ditto for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, who secured a $1 billion investment from the same fund? Has the new Saudi professional golf tour scheduled events at Trump’s courses in New Jersey and Florida because they’re the best ties, or to curry favor with a former and maybe- to be future POTUS?
I could go on – Trump and Kushner are weird diplomatic clearance sale of Saudi Arabia’s rival Qatar (which was toppled when a Qatari-backed company bought the money-losing Manhattan Tower from Kushner), or great lengths which Trump worked to hide the details of his phone calls with MBS – but you get the idea. This all smells worse than a desert refinery.
Because here’s the thing: These corruption cases were inextricably linked to hugely important policies that had life-and-death consequences that went even beyond the murder of Khashoggi or the jailing of dissidents. Among the pro-Saudi and pro-MBS policies pushed by the Trump administration, wreck a historic nuclear deal with Saudi Arabia’s bitter regional rivals Iran; providing arms and other forms of support to the Saudis’ immoral and genocidal military campaign in Yemen; and pretend that climate change was no problem – which was surely appreciated by the oil-soaked, blood-stained monarchy.
Will anyone ever be able to seriously consider all of this? Over the course of 2022, the House January 6 Committee has achieved something that was beginning to seem impossible, partially restoring some confidence in the government through its thorough and well-conducted investigation of the Capitol Hill insurrection. . Given the national security stakes and the possibility of billion-dollar corruption, shouldn’t the Trump-Saudi connection receive the same treatment? How about a thorough congressional investigation, with sworn testimony and subpoena power?
It’s absolutely necessary, but I’m afraid no one has the guts to tackle the Saudi issue unless the Mar-a-Lago investigation uncovers unsavory dealings that even go beyond the many acts suspects listed here. Without the truth, our failure to hold Trump and Kushner accountable could be a disaster if somehow 2025 sees POTUS 45 become POTUS 47 – with foreign policy returning to the highest bidder.
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