Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Trump's business interests come first - II

President Trump's new personal lawyer declared over the weekend that the president is not under investigation by the special counsel.  He based that on the fact that the president has not been notified that he is under investigation.

But that means nothing.   It is not the usual practice of the FBI and special prosecutors to notify someone that they are under investigation until it gets to the point of directly seeking documents or a personal interview.

It is true, however, that several top ranking security officials are being interviewed about their conversations with the president, in which he reportedly asked them to intervene with the FBI Director to stop the Russia investigation.   So call it what you want, but there is reason for worry in the Trump administration -- and hope for those of us who see great damage being done to our democracy.

Even if there is no provable obstruction of justice (and it's hard to read what is known other than just that), there is still the multi-pronged investigation going on about Trump's business dealings, especially those that involve foreign oligarchs or rulers of foreign states.    Which brings me back to an article by Brian Klaus in USA Today that I have saved.   It's quite relevant today.

"President Trump makes more money when he embraces regimes that violate human rights. From the Philippines to China and Turkey to Saudi Arabia, the president’s adoration for authoritarian abusers is bad for those being oppressed but good for his wallet.

"Staggering conflicts of interest that directly link Trump’s bank account to despots around the world are already transforming U.S. foreign policy. . . .

"Last week, a transcript leaked of a call between Trump and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte. Trump praised Duterte for theunbelievable jobon dealing withthe drug problem.” He was referring to a state-sponsored murder campaign dressed up as an anti-drug initiative. Duterte’s goverment uses death squads to kill people in cold blood in the streets. . . .  There is substantial evidence that the police often kill first, plant drugs on the victim second, and then falsely claim self-defense third.

"Trump explicitly endorsed this barbarism. Then, as icing on the cake, he invited Duterte to the White House — even though he’s a bloodthirsty despot who bragged about personally killing people and likened himself to Hitler. . . . 

". . . .  if you look at Trump’s business ties, his praise for despots like Duterte who abuse their own people makes perfect, self-serving sense.  Trump Tower Manila opens this year. That gives Duterte lucrative leverage over Trump. But it’s worse than that. As Duterte’s crackdown intensifies, his regime is touting dubious stats showing an urban crime reductionintended to boost investor confidence. If it succeeds, property values in Manila are likely to increase. . .

"To make matters even shadier, Duterte appointed Trump’s business partner [in the Manila development] as an official envoy to the United States [who is] now an official representative of the Philippine government to Washington. Trump’s sons are still working with [him] on the [hotel] project, while [he] works with their dad’s administration on U.S. foreign policy toward the Philippines.

"As if it couldn’t be any more of an ethical quagmire, according to the New York Daily News, there are patents pending in the Philippines for the clothing line of Ivanka Trump Marks LLC and others for Trump Marks LLC.

". . . [Similar business profit advantages are occurring with China, and at the same time] President Trump has since backed off his fiery campaign rhetoric toward China and reversed course on his pledge to label China a currency manipulator. He has also ended the longstanding bipartisan consensus of chastising Beijing for its poor human rights record.   [And remember that Ivanka Trump had several patents pending in China, while she sat with President Xi at dinner on his visit to Mar-a-Lago a couple of months back.]

"In Turkey, President Trump was the first foreign head of state to call and congratulate the autocrat of Ankara . . . on rigging a referendum that demolished democracy. . . . But of course, Trump’s embrace of Erdogan couldn’t possibly have had anything to do with what Trump previously called “a little conflict of interest,” embedded in the steel and concrete of not one but two Trump buildings in Istanbul.

"Finally, Trump’s first foreign visit as president was to Saudi Arabia, one of the worst regimes for human rights on the planet. . . .  Again, it makes sense. In 2015, Trump registered eight companies that are each possibly linked to a development project . . .  [A] Saudi Prince . . . bailed Trump out twice in the past, including buying one of Trump’s yachts when his Atlantic City casinos were going bust. . . . 
 Conversely, if he does the right thing and publicly criticizes them for beheading dissidents or treating women as second-class citizens, future business deals would be jeopardized. . .

"Trump, to his credit, took limited action in Syria, where he has no business interests. But when he must choose between his wallet and a just foreign policy that advances America’s interests, his choices are already clear for all to see."

And then there's Russia, with the autocratic, murderous Putin who pulls the strings on a stable of oligarchs, whom he made and controls.  Some of them have been big investors in Trump's U.S. properties.   And then there's the Russian state-controlled bank, whose president had a meeting with Jared Kushner, for what purpose, we don't yet know.

I believe, ultimately, it will be the old saw "follow the money" that brings down the presidency of Donald J. Trump.


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