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“The World Is a Dangerous Place!”: Trump and US Financial Interests in Saudi Arabia

20 Nov

This morning Trump issued a very lawyerly statement on Muhammad bin Salman’s guilt with regard to Khashoggi’s assassination: “The world is a dangerous place!” (as if Khashoggi just bumped into his murder) …  “it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t”. And “The United States intends to remain a steadfast partner of Saudi Arabia, to ensure the interests of our country, Israel and all other partners in the region.”

 

The full statement is attached here: https://twitter.com/Acosta/status/1064939271113637890

 

Why would Trump defend the murderous intent of a government who sends a hit-team to Istanbul to suffocate and dismember a U.S. resident and writer for the Washington Post?  First let’s begin to look at the money trail (and later at the grand plan that Kushner has supposedly cooked up for Saudi Arabia in the region).

 

#Trump claims to have NO business interests in #SaudiArabia. That is only half true. In June of 2001 #Trump sold the 45th floor of Trump World Tower to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and reportedly made $4.5 billion (actually more, see below). These apartments became part of the Saudi Arabian Mission to the United Nations.

Because the Saudis also paid additional costs (like annual fees of 85K per year) he could have made as much as $12 billion in that sale, but certainly $5.7 billion.

 

Earlier, in 1991, Prince AlWaleed bin-Talal bought Trump’s yacht, “Princess” for $20 million to help him out during a very tough period. In 1995, Prince AlWaleed along with other investors bought #Trump‘s Plaza Hotel for $325 million. (Prince AlWaleed expressed strong dislike for Trump, who has returned his animosity despite the fact that he had helped Trump with these purchases. Some have speculated this is why Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman so mistreated Prince AlWaleed when he captured him along with hundreds of others and held them at the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Riyadh. The Prince appears to have been tortured, or certainly is not the same man, and recently spoke in defense of Muhammad bin Salman as if ordered to do so).

While Trump’s dealings with Saudi Arabia were legal before his Presidency, certain actions during his campaign (involving Russia but also UAE and Saudi Arabia are arguably not) and he is supposed to avoid directly profiting from a foreign entity as a President. Even so, after #Trump became President, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia spent $270,000 at Trump’s Washington hotel while they were lobbying (the US) – $190,000 on rooms, $78,000 for catering, $1,600 for parking accrdng to a Washington Post Report based on required lobbyist filings. Just slightly different figures were given by the Independent: “aid disclosures filed with US Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, show that Qorvis MSLGroup paid $190,272 to Trump International for lodging expenses, $78,204 for catering, and $1,568 for parking.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/donald-trump-international-hotel-saudi-arabia-washington-dc-investment-270000-a7775471.html

Also see:

https://www.wsj.com/articles/trump-hotel-received-270-000-from-lobbying-campaign-tied-to-saudis-1496700739

https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/336444-saudis-spent270000-at-trump-hotel-as-part-of-lobbying-efforts-report

 

In July 2018 a lawsuit was filed against #Trump for accepting payments from foreign governments in that stay, which is a violation of the Foreign and Domestic Emoluments Clauses of the Constitution. The President filed a Motion to Dismiss, which the court rejected. Here’s the judge’s opinion:

http://www.mdd.uscourts.gov/sites/mdd/files/17-1596-Opinion.pdf

 

Though he may not actively manage the properties, he profits or “gains” from their profits. That lawsuit is continuing.

 

Also, in March of 2018, the #Trump International Hotel in New York hosted #Saudis accompanying Muhammad bin Salman. The Saudis paid so much that the general manager of the property wrote that their five day stay produced a 13% bump in revenue for that fiscal quarter 2h2 hours ago

In addition to this information which came from a fact-check on #Trump‘s denial of interests in #SaudiArabia (https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2018/oct/18/donald-trump/donald-trumps-claim-no-financial-interests-saudi-a/ ) we should look carefully at Crown Prince #MuhammadbinSalman‘s activities while in the United States in March He visited tech industries in California and the Saudi Public Investment Fund (PIF) pledged $45 billion to (Japanese) SoftBank’s $100 bill technology venture capital fund. Also, PIF bought a $3.5 billion share in Uber and a $2 billion stake in Tesla; and invested about $1 billion in Virgin Group’s space companies. Why all this spending?

Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had magnificent plans under #Saudi‘s Vision 2030 for a tech city, Neom, which will use AI (artificial intelligence) and robots. Just imagine all the profits that Silicon Valley companies and others could make here!

But meanwhile, why wasn’t the U.S. speaking out even prior to the brutal murder of #Khashoggi, when Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman had brutally locked up and tortured senior #Saudis in the Ritz-Carlton, not releasing them until they paid huge sums of money to him?  At least one died and some are still locked up!

There have been arrests of activists, including women activists and reports they have been tortured, beaten, mistreated, and threatened from telling their family members of their treatment.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/saudi-womens-rights-advocates-reportedly-abused-while-in-prison/2018/11/20/9e77f11c-ebfb-11e8-9236-bb94154151d2_story.html?utm_term=.69dd9072b377

These include: include Loujain al-Hathloul, Iman al-Nafjan, Aziza al-Yousef, Samar Badawi, Nassima al-Sada, Mohammad al-Rabe’a and Dr Ibrahim al-Modeimigh.

Why was there no outcry from #US senators or congressmen? If not from #Trump and Kushner?  It wasn’t simply the prospect of business deals in the U.S. but because #SaudiArabia has spent a LOT lobbying individual politicians.

#Saudis spent $27 million on Washington lobbying firms in 2017, that is three times the amount they paid out in 2016. $400,000 went directly to campaign funds of senators and House members who were urged not to make noise about MbS’ actions at the Ritz-Carlton, or arrests of activists, and indeed they did not speak out about this. (Information from Centre on International Policy)

 

What about this important arms deal? President Trump claims that it totals $110 billion in sales. That figure is again, not entirely correct. Most of the agreements are MOIs (memoranda of intent). Actually the total is more like $28 billion made up of six items which were previously declared by President Obama to Congress. Others are more like more like a wish list, and are still being negotiated.

 

For example, the THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defense) anti-ballistic missile system received preliminary approval from the US Congress. However #Saudi Arabia was supposed to meet a September deadline with Lockheed Martin, and they missed that deadline. Many items are scheduled for far enough in the future, that the ‘deals’ could be withdrawn. The THAAD is tentatively scheduled for 2023-2026.

It doesn’t HAVE to be sold and no Americans are going to be put out of work they haven’t started on. There’s much more on this and fact-checking on the figure that Trump refers to here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/10/11/trumps-billion-arms-sales-saudi-arabia-still-fake/?utm_term=.a39d542a3a66

Now, I’m hoping to find out more about Kushner’s financial interests in Saudi Arabia …