Saturday, June 17, 2017

Now, the Truth Comes Out

Why is Trump piling on "Qatar is a terrorist sponsor" bandwagon with the Saudis and UAE? You guessed it...
President Trump has done business with royals from Saudi Arabia for at least 20 years, since he sold the Plaza Hotel to a partnership formed by a Saudi prince. Mr. Trump has earned millions of dollars from the United Arab Emirates for putting his name on a golf course, with a second soon to open.

He has never entered the booming market in neighboring Qatar, however, despite years of trying.

[...]

Mr. Trump has thrown his weight firmly behind the two countries where he has business ties, raising new concerns about the appearance of a conflict between his public role and his financial incentives.

[...]

[H]is stance toward Qatar, which is host to the largest American air base in the region, has differed sharply from the positions of the Pentagon and State Department. The secretaries of defense and state have stayed neutral, urging unity against the common enemy of the Islamic State.

[...]

Mr. Trump is the first president in 40 years to retain his personal business interests after entering the White House. Other senior officials in the executive branch are required to divest their assets.

[...]

“Other countries in the Middle East see what is happening and may think, ‘We should be opening golf courses’ or ‘We should be buying rooms at the Trump International,’” said Brian Egan, a State Department legal adviser under the Obama administration.

  NYT
And I'm sure Trump intends that to happen.
Michael Short [a spokesman for the White House], said in an email only that Mr. Trump had “formally extracted himself” from management of his business, the Trump Organization.

Stepping away from management without giving up ownership does not diminish Mr. Trump’s financial incentives or conflicts, as the director of the Office of Government Ethics warned before Mr. Trump’s inauguration.
To Trump's ears that wasn't a warning, it was a suggestion - good business advice.
Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson called on Qatar “to be responsive to the concerns of its neighbors.” But he added, “We call on the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt to ease the blockade against Qatar.” He noted that the dispute was impairing international trade and hindering the military campaign against the Islamic State.

Mr. Trump, on the other hand, endorsed the blockade as soon as it started.

[...]

Then Mr. Trump defended the blockade again just hours after Mr. Tillerson had urged an end to it. “The time had come to call on Qatar to end its funding” of terrorism, Mr. Trump said.

[...]

The Saudis “buy apartments from me,” he said in August 2015 at a rally in Mobile, Ala. “They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

His company filed paperwork to create eight inactive corporations in Saudi Arabia around that time, presumably contemplating a hotel or licensing deal in Jidda that has not come to fruition.
Yet.
In May, the rulers of the kingdom agreed to invest $20 billion in a fund to build invest in American infrastructure, billed as part of an initiative Mr. Trump has championed. The $20 billion investment went to a fund set up by the money manager Blackstone, whose founder is close to Mr. Trump, his daughter Ivanka and her husband, Jared Kushner.
Wow. Just wow. Will all US infrastructure and other projects now have their funds run through the Trumps?
Mr. Trump linked up in 2013 with Hussain Sajwani, a developer sometimes referred to as the Donald of Dubai. All big real estate developers in the United Arab Emirates are acutely dependent on the country’s rulers, who can authorize or block their projects.

Mr. Trump agreed to manage a golf course as part of a development built by Damac, Mr. Sajwani’s company. Mr. Trump hung billboards of [Ivana] Trump, a former model and executive for his company, all over the city to sell properties, and he pronounced it “the greatest golf community in Asia.” In 2014, he agreed to manage a second course with Mr. Sajwani.

The golf courses paid Mr. Trump $2 million to $10 million even before they opened, according to financial disclosure forms filed in May 2016. Then, after Mr. Trump’s election as president, Mr. Sajwani offered to pay him an additional $2 billion to develop more properties. Mr. Sajwani’s company did not respond to messages.

[...]

In a financial disclosure form released on Friday, Mr. Trump reported a sharp drop in his Dubai income, to about $13,000 over roughly 16 months, without explanation.

[...]

But the Trumps had less luck in Doha. Their only business with Qatar was leasing office space in Trump Tower, in Manhattan, to the national airway. The airline moved out before Mr. Trump became president.

[...]

“Could anyone have imagined that five or 10 years ago, when businessmen turned down a New York mogul and reality TV host auditioning for its investment,” [Clayton Swisher, a journalist who works for the Qatar-owned Al Jazeera network] wrote, “that they were jeopardizing the security of their country?”
I assume this will all be on Mr. Mueller's radar.
Given the weave of interests and close cooperation between the U.S. and Qatar, many are seeking ways to interpret Trump’s abrupt turn against Qatar in the dispute. Some think the answer lies not in the realm of policy but in the history of Trump’s business deals with the various actors in the dispute.

[...]

Several people interviewed for this piece expressed concern that Trump’s bias against their country might stem from a series of failed business overtures that he (along with his son-in-law Jared Kushner) made seven years ago, which are only now being reported. They did not go as swimmingly as the deals made with the Saudis and Emiratis.

[...]

In 2010, as markets were still reeling from the 2008 global economic crisis, Qatar was flush with cash and [the Trumps came] searching for silver linings amidst the global chaos.

[...]

A source close to the 2010 talks with Trump say he made the Doha stopover (along with stops in Dubai and Abu Dhabi) to raise money for a distressed real estate fund he was assembling. Trump opened the discussion with QIA by bragging about the success of Trump International and the many deals he had personally put together. Trump had hardly got through his own biography when Dr. Al-Abdullah, QIA’s senior executive, interrupted to say words to the effect of: We know who you are and what you have done. Tell us what you can do for us right now.

That single, curt interruption apparently left Trump stunned. He had expected his hosts to be impressed, if not grateful, that a person of Trump’s stature would visit the Qatari capital. Apparently distracted by the lack of decorum, Trump barely continued with his pitch. The meeting abruptly ended, according to one account, with Trump exiting the room visibly angered.

[...]

According to another, the meeting ended pleasantly and the decision not to invest in Trump was simply about Trump’s lack of track record in doing real estate funds. The same source also said any coldness to Trump was more a function of Dr. Al-Abdullah’s becoming numb to the same repetitive proposals—QIA routinely received such pitches.

  Clayton Swisher
And no doubt totally unimpressed by anyone with money, him being the buyer in the situation.
In the Qataris view, if not Trump’s, all that distinguished his proposal from so many others was his own celebrity status.

A subsequent meeting that day between Trump and Sheikh HBJ ended with pleasantries but with the top Qatari businessman keeping hold of his wallet. Trump was unable to move any Qatari funds to the Trump Organization, and within months after leaving, observers noted that even Trump himself quit the distressed real estate fund idea, having failed to get a single backer anywhere.
How has he punished the rest of them?

And yet, Trump was obviously not satisfied with not getting any of that Qatari wealth.
Ivanka Trump returned to Doha within several months with her husband Jared Kushner [...] . Jared had a new pitch to make, this time on a different real estate deal.

[...]

Through a personal friendship with Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan’s son Khalid, [...] Jared gained entry to a younger cadre of successful Qatari businessmen during his trip.

[...]

He was desperate to secure funds to recapitalize his 666 Fifth Avenue property which, then as now, was severely underwater. But in high-level meetings in Doha, neither QIA nor Sheikh HBJ showed interest in Jared’s building.

[...]

The luxury high-rise has been plagued by massive debt ever since—insiders say the Kushner family overpaid—which offers one explanation for why they have turned to foreign sources to help bail it out. Discussions to buy a stake in 666 Fifth Avenue between Jared and Sheikh HBJ—who left government in 2013 to pursue his own vast business interests—are said by a source with knowledge of the talks to have continued right up until the election of 2016.
But wait...there's more. All of which I imagine are on the FBI/Senate Intel Committee/House Intel Committee/Special Prosecution radars.
[J]ournalistic exposure of Jared’s family history of investing in illegal West Bank settlements provide Palestinians and the international community insights to his obvious personal conflicts.
And Trump thought somehow that Kushner was the man to broker a peace deal between Israel and Palestine?
[I]t is necessary for Trump and his family to declare all their Mideast interests and holdings. This will enable others to form a view as to whether Trump’s recent weighing in on the side of Saudi Arabia and the UAE is a genuine attempt to perform the statesman role, or merely payback for business deals that never happened.
Does anyone really wonder?
Many Qataris suspect that they know the answer and are distressed by it. Could anyone have imagined that five or ten years ago, when businessmen turned down a New York mogul and reality TV host auditioning for its investment, that they were jeopardizing the security of their country? Not to mention America’s security interests in the Middle East.
...but hey, do what you want...you will anyway.

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