Saturday, October 20, 2018

Trust me, Clinton wouldn't have done this

MBS couldn't stop himself from cracking up during his March visit as Trump bragged on the "deal" he'd made with the cheesy visual aids his staff prepares for him. "Look! Airplanes!" Photo by Mandel Ngan/AFP. Don't believe Saudi Arabia is America's generous pal. And his claim that MBS is giving the United States $110 billion worth of business is bullshit, as you probably know by now. As Yglesias writes today, Saudis are far more dependent on the US than the other way around; this special relationship has been out of date for many years.

A couple of years ago, during the presidential campaign, America was all exercised about the fact that the Saudi Arabian government seemed to have made donations, some of them possibly while Hillary Clinton was serving as secretary of state, totaling over $10 million, conceivably as much as $25 million, to the charitable organization run by Clinton's husband and daughter, where the money would be used for things like buying AIDS drugs for patients in impoverished countries, microcredit for poor business owners, and programs to empower women and girls, which never seemed to get a mention in the news stories, along with the fact that Norway had put in approximately the same amount, and other countries donating smaller but still big sums included not just the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain and Qatar and Morocco and Algeria but also Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, UK, and Germany.

They did sometimes mention that Clinton's opponent, Donald Trump, was also vaguely rumored to have some funky business relationships with some other countries, as in this 20 August 2016 story by Amy Chozick (remember her?) and Steve Eder:

Mrs. Clinton’s opponent, Donald J. Trump, could face his own complications if he becomes president, with investments abroad and hundreds of millions of dollars in real estate debt — financial positions that could be affected by moves he makes in the White House. And on Friday, Paul Manafort resigned as chairman of the Trump campaign, in part because of reports about his lucrative consulting work on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians.
Still, Mr. Trump has seized on emails released over the past several weeks from Mrs. Clinton’s tenure as secretary of state, in which a handful of donors are mentioned. He has attacked her over an email chain that showed Douglas J. Band, an adviser to Mr. Clinton, seeking to arrange a meeting between a senior American government official and Gilbert Chagoury, a Lebanese-Nigerian real estate developer who donated between $1 million and $5 million. Mr. Chagoury explained through a spokesman that he had simply wanted to provide insights on elections in Lebanon.
Also that meeting never took place, as was known at the time (Huma Abedin tried to shunt the guy off to an ex-ambassador to Lebanon). Manafort's now in jail, mostly over his evasion of taxes over those pots of Ukrainian money, but we trust he has been telling Robert Mueller's team about some of the crimes he and Trump committed together.

And we all were in a position to know at the same time that Trump was accustomed to getting a lot more than $25 million from Saudi Arabia in an ordinary business day:
"I get along great with all of them," Trump said of the Saudis at a 2015 campaign rally in Mobile, Alabama. "They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much!"
This continues, now perhaps more directly connected to the Saudi regime than it was previously.
The most recent example came last year, as The Washington Post reported in August that a visit from Saudi officials to Trump's Trump International Hotel in New York City helped boost the hotel's quarterly revenue by 13% in 2018's first quarter.
The bump came after two straight years of booking declines for the property, according to a letter obtained by the Post in which the manager of the Trump hotel cited "a last-minute visit to New York by the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia."
In addition, a lobbying firm connected to the Saudi government also paid $270,000 to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, DC, between October 2016 and March 2017.
The New York hotel bookings are among the things New York attorney general Barbara Underwood is currently investigating. And he probably wasn't using the money to buy AIDS drugs.

What did anybody suspect President Hillary Clinton was going to do for Saudi Arabia to thank them for their support for girls' education in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa? The opinion in "left" anti-Clinton circles seemed to be the dark fear that she might insist on selling them military weapons, as if that was something that hadn't been done by every US administration for 60-odd years. (When Clinton was secretary of state, she had signed off on the issue of permits for Algeria, as well as Israel, Turkey, and Canada, another Clinton Foundation donor, to buy large amounts of tear gas, which David Sirota referred to, not inaccurately but confusingly, as "chemical weapons").

What Trump has done for Saudi Arabia has been to

  • acquiesce in its weird but plainly illegal blockade of Qatar, the host of thousands of American troops, 
  • acquiesce in its turning into a police state that detains citizens in the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and shakes them down for $100 billion
  • put an end to the Obama administration's efforts to protect Yemeni civilians in the Kingdom's savage war against its poor neighbor (as I feared and Ben Rhodes has now acknowledged, those efforts weren't good enough, but the Trump administration's behavior has been actively harmful*)
  • break up the deal to ensure Iran cannot build nuclear weapons for at least the next 10 or 15 years, though that's just as much to please Prime Minister Netanyahu as his pal Crown Prince Mohammed; and
  • helped push the international price of oil up.
It's safe to say that Clinton would have done none of these things.

And now they're asking Trump to cooperate in disappearing the murder case of Jamal Kashoggi, a US permanent resident and Washington Post columnist tortured and slaughtered by an expert assassination team of the crown prince's confederates in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.

Which Trump would probably cheerfully do for free. He's been applying best-quality whataboutism to making excuses for Vladimir Putin for having journalists murdered since 2015:
“He’s running his country and at least he’s a leader,” Trump said, leaving the hosts stunned.
“But again, he kills journalists that don’t agree with him,” Joe Scarborough pressed.
“I think our country does plenty of killing also, Joe,” Trump replied. “There’s a lot of stuff going on in the world right now, Joe. A lot of killing going on and a lot of stupidity and that’s the way it is.”
And he's "in love" with the guy who had his brother killed with VX gas in the Kuala Lumpur airport (now, that's what I call a chemical weapon). All these emperors just naturally stick together, when they're not having a war.

But in terms of simple, direct, impeachable international corruption, I think Trump's (and Jared Kushner's) relationship with Mohammed bin Salman has to be the most blatant going.

*Here's Pompeo overruling his own advisors to protect KSA on the Yemeni civilians question and promulgate a lie as official US government truth:

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