Saudi Arabia is putting money in Trump’s pocket

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16 Oct 2018, 7:49 pm

Saudi Arabia is putting money in Trump’s pocket. Is that shaping U.S. policy?

There is something unsettling about the fact that Saudi intervention in Yemen’s civil war, in which they have reportedly killed thousands of civilians, has received steady U.S. support, while the murder of a single journalist threatens to upend the relationship between the two countries.

Or so you might think. But here’s the reality: This will blow over, not only because of the complex relationship between the two countries, but also because everything in foreign policy is personal with President Trump, and he likes the Saudis.

And why does he like them so much? Because they pay him.

This is not something Trump has been shy about saying. “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” he said at a rally in Alabama in 2015. “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Trump says so many shocking things that it’s sometimes easy to slide right past the most appalling ones, but read that again. Here you have a candidate for president of the United States saying that he is favorably disposed toward a foreign country because they have given him millions of dollars, and all but promising to shape American foreign policy in their favor for that very reason.

We should note that it’s more than just apartments. Trump has sold many properties to Saudis, and Saudis have invested in Trump projects. And as David Fahrenthold and Jonathan O’Connell report:

Business from Saudi-connected customers continued to be important after Trump won the presidency. Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 last year to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. Just this year, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported significant upticks in bookings from Saudi visitors.

This is precisely the reason the framers of the Constitution added a provision saying that neither the president nor other officials could “accept of any present, Emolument, Office, or Title, of any kind whatever, from any King, Prince, or foreign State.” If a foreign country is putting money in the president’s pocket on an ongoing basis, how in the world can we trust that the decisions he makes will be based on the best interests of the United States and not on his bank account?

This is of more concern with Trump than with any other president in American history. His entire life has been devoted to the accumulation of wealth, as though there were no other goal anyone should consider seeking (“My whole life I’ve been greedy, greedy, greedy. I’ve grabbed all the money I could get. I’m so greedy,” he has said). He made sure that upon assuming office his businesses would continue to operate and continue to provide avenues for those wishing to further enrich him to do so. And he refuses to release his tax returns, so we have no idea exactly how much money he’s getting and from whom.

But Tuesday, Trump tweeted this:

For the record, I have no financial interests in Saudi Arabia (or Russia, for that matter). Any suggestion that I have is just more FAKE NEWS (of which there is plenty)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 16, 2018

This is the same claim Trump has made with regard to Russia, and it’s the same dodge. The point isn’t whether Trump has interests in Saudi Arabia, it’s whether Saudi Arabia has interests in him. And just as is the case with Russia, they do.

If you’re the Saudis, the nice thing about Trump is that he lacks any subtlety whatsoever, so you don’t have to wonder how to approach him. He has said explicitly that the way to win his favor is to give him money. He has established means for you to do so — buying Trump properties and staying in Trump hotels. And with his combination of narcissism and insecurity, if you invite him to your country and give him a gold medal, he’ll forever be your friend.