It’s obvious that President Trump never met a rich autocrat he didn’t like.
We’ve seen him kiss up to Putin, find common ground–and hair– with “Little Rocket Man.” And his first trip abroad as President was to Saudi Arabia.
Trump’s cozy relationship with the Saudis is finally getting some attention, in the wake of the presumed murder of a Saudi journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, who had been critical of the regime. And the relationship was, indeed, quite cozy. It appears that Trump hasn’t just owed the various bailouts of his bad business bets to Russian oligarchs–the Saudis have been equally helpful.
He’s booked hotel rooms and meeting spaces to them, sold an entire floor in one of his buildings to them and, in desperate moments in his career, gotten a billionaire from the country to buy his yacht and New York’s Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park.
President Donald Trump’s ties to Saudi Arabia run long and deep, and he’s often boasted about his business ties with the kingdom.
“I love the Saudis,” Trump said when announcing his presidential run at Trump Tower in 2015. “Many are in this building.”
According to former federal ethics chief Walter Shaub, the Saudis have continued funneling money to Trump during his Presidency. Shaub is currently advising a watchdog group that is suing Trump for violating the Emoluments Clause by continuing to profit from foreign government ties to his business.
For a man who is so critical of Muslims, Trump sure is willing to make concessions when money is involved.
Trump has said that he doesn’t want to do anything that might scuttle a pending huge arms sale to the Saudis. (America–that “Shining City on a Hill”–seems perfectly okay with arming the worst people on the globe…).
In all fairness, Trump isn’t the only President who has befriended this deeply troubling Mideast power, mostly for their oil. But in his case, it’s clearly personal.
In 1991, as Trump was teetering on personal bankruptcy and scrambling to raise cash, he sold his 282-foot Trump yacht “Princess” to Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin-Talal for $20 million, a third less than what he reportedly paid for it.
Four years later, the prince came to his rescue again, joining other investors in a $325 million deal for Trump’s money-losing Plaza Hotel.
In 2001, Trump sold the entire 45th floor of the Trump World Tower across from the United Nations in New York for $12 million, the biggest purchase in that building to that point, according to the brokerage site Streeteasy. The buyer: The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
Shortly after he announced his run for president, Trump began laying the groundwork for possible new business in the kingdom. He registered eight companies with names tied to the country, such as “THC Jeddah Hotel Advisor LLC” and “DT Jeddah Technical Services,” according to a 2016 financial disclosure report to the federal government. Jeddah is a major city in the country.
The relationship didn’t cool when Trump became President. Far from it.
A public relations firm working for the kingdom spent nearly $270,000 on lodging and catering at his Washington hotel near the Oval Office through March of last year, according to filings to the Justice Department. A spokesman for the firm told The Wall Street Journal that the Trump hotel payments came as part of a Saudi-backed lobbying campaign against a bill that allowed Americans to sue foreign governments for responsibility in the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
The Saudi government has been a valued customer at the Trump International Hotel in New York, where a visit in March by a group accompanying Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman boosted room rentals at the hotel by 13 percent for the first three months of the year, after two years of decline.
There’s much more, but I was particularly intrigued by this report from Dispatches from the Culture Wars.
Back in 2016, Jamal Khashoggi, who by all indications was murdered by Trump and Kushner’s buddy Mohammad bin Salman at the Saudi embassy in Turkey, was banned from writing for any newspaper in Saudi Arabia because he wrote something critical of Donald Trump. Until then, he had a weekly column in a Saudi paper.
Birds of a feather….