15 C
Los Angeles
Tuesday, April 23, 2024

To Trump, Foreign Business Is Scandalous, Unless It’s His Own

MUST READ

Donald J. Trump has berated Joseph R. Biden Jr. for his son’s overseas deal-making, despite plenty of overseas deal-making by the Trump family.

After his fourth indictment, bringing his total count of felony charges to 91, former President Donald J. Trump last week posted a video online accusing President Biden and his family of being criminals.

Former President Donald J. Trump and his relatives have been on the receiving end of money from around the globe since he left the White House. Credit…Jon Cherry for The New York Times

“The Biden crime family,” he claimed, had received millions of dollars from foreign countries. “I believe we have a compromised president,” Mr. Trump said, adding: “He’s a Manchurian candidate. That’s why Crooked Joe is letting other countries walk all over the United States.”

For Mr. Trump, outrage is a selective commodity when it comes to presidential families taking millions of dollars from foreign countries. During his four years in the White House and in the more than two and a half years since, Mr. Trump and his relatives have been on the receiving end of money from around the globe in sums far greater than anything Hunter Biden, the president’s son, reportedly collected.

Also Read How Trump’s Attacks on Prosecutors Build on History of Using Racist Language and Stereotypes

Unlike other modern presidents, Mr. Trump never gave up control of his sprawling business with its interests in multiple countries, nor did he forswear foreign business even as president. He shattered norms in his money-making and unabashed boosting of his family’s company. The luxury hotel he opened down the street from the White House, for example, became the favored destination for lobbyists, dealmakers and foreign governments, including Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain, which paid handsomely for accommodations, galas and more.

Mr. Trump also permitted his family to take positions in government that blurred the lines when it came to their private interests. Unlike Hunter Biden, Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka Trump and son-in-law Jared Kushner both served on the White House staff, where they could shape policies of concern to overseas businesses.

Mr. Kushner was heavily involved in setting the administration’s approach to the Middle East and made multiple contacts in the region. After turning in his White House badge, Mr. Kushner started a private equity firm with $2 billion in funds from Saudi Arabia and hundreds of millions more from other Arab countries that stood to benefit from U.S. policies and have an interest in a possible second Trump administration.

Also Read Ted Cruz Urges Special Counsel to Investigate Alleged Biden Corruption: Ex-Trump Official at Helm

“The Trump family foreign commercial entanglements were far more numerous, involving dozens of foreign business conflicts,” said Norman Eisen, a lawyer who led unsuccessful court challenges to the former president’s practice of taking foreign money while in office.

The entanglements “implicated those like Jared and Ivanka who were actually working in government, whereas Hunter never did,” Mr. Eisen added. “Indeed, Trump himself openly benefited, whereas there’s not a shred of evidence that Biden the elder ever did.”

Hunter Biden’s business dealings have raised concerns because testimony and reports have indicated that he traded on his family name to generate lucrative deals. A former business partner has told congressional investigators that the younger Biden parlayed “the illusion of access to his father” to win over potential partners.

Jared Kushner, the former president’s son-in-law, started a private equity firm with $2 billion in funds from Saudi Arabia.Credit…Tamir Kalifa for The New York Times

No hard evidence has emerged that Mr. Biden, while vice president, personally participated in or profited from the business deals or used his office to benefit his son’s partners.

But Mr. Biden’s statements distancing himself from his son’s activities have been undercut by testimony indicating that Hunter put his father on speakerphone with international business associates; the future president talked about casual things like the weather, not business, according to testimony, but it seemed intended to impress Hunter’s associates.

All of which would typically generate scrutiny in Washington, where relatives of presidents have long taken advantage of their positions to make money. Access and celebrity are coins of the realm in the nation’s capital, and a relative who frequents Camp David, enjoys a good seat at a state dinner or rides Air Force One can get phone calls returned. This tradition has turned off many Americans, and even Democrats privately voice discomfort at Hunter Biden’s activities.

“If he traded on his father’s influence, he should be held accountable for that,” Representative Jim Himes, Democrat of Connecticut, said on MSNBC recently. “And I’m emphasizing this because you never, ever heard a Republican say the same thing about Donald Trump or his family.”

Also Read Controversy Ignites: Hunter Biden Special Counsel Appointment Sparks On-Air Crossfire

Republicans investigating the Bidens say they made more than $20 million from foreign sources in China, Ukraine and elsewhere, but a Washington Post analysis of congressional memos indicated that most of the money went to business associates, with $7 million going to the Bidens themselves, mainly Hunter.

“What both Hunter and Jared have in common is that they are the well-educated sons of prominent people, and that their familial ties certainly helped them in business,” said Don Fox, a former general counsel of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. “That is where the similarities end.”

“Hunter never held public office, and a fair amount of his work involving Ukraine occurred when his father was out of office,” Mr. Fox continued. The amount of money that Mr. Kushner could earn from the funds invested by the Saudis, he added, “dwarfs what anyone ever paid Hunter.”

The analogy to Hunter Biden rankles Mr. Kushner, who had a long track record in business before joining government and takes pride in negotiating the Abraham Accords, the diplomatic agreements normalizing relations between Israel and several Arab neighbors.

People close to him argue that the investments from the Saudis and other Arabs were based on trust that he could make money for them, not out of gratitude for policies he promoted. And they noted that the Biden administration has not reversed those policies but instead sought to build on the Abraham Accords.

“There is no factual comparison between Hunter and Jared,” a representative for Mr. Kushner said in a statement. “Jared was a successful businessman before entering politics, achieved historic peace and trade agreements, and like many before him, he re-entered business after serving for free in the White House, where he fully complied with the Office of Government Ethics rules.”

Chad Mizelle, the chief legal officer for Affinity Partners, Mr. Kushner’s firm, said in a statement: “Partisan politics aside, no one has ever pointed to a specific legal or ethical guideline that Jared or Affinity has violated.”

One of the few Republicans to criticize the Trump family’s blending of government service and foreign business has been Chris Christie, the former New Jersey governor running against the former president for next year’s Republican nomination. “The Trump family have been involved in grifting for quite some time,” he said on CNN in June.

Mr. Christie, who as a U.S. attorney prosecuted Mr. Kushner’s father, singled out the business dealings of the former president’s son-in-law.

“Jared Kushner, six months after he leaves the White House, gets $2 billion from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund,” he said. “What was Jared Kushner doing in the Middle East? We had Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo as secretaries of state. We didn’t need Jared Kushner. He was put there to make those relationships, and then he cashed in on those relationships when he left the office.”

While in the White House, Mr. Kushner bolstered ties between the United States and Saudi Arabia, convincing his father-in-law to make the kingdom his first foreign destination as president, helping broker billions of dollars in arms sales and forging a close relationship with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

Mr. Kushner defended Prince Mohammed after Saudi operatives murdered Jamal Khashoggi, a columnist for The Post and United States resident. The C.I.A. concluded that Prince Mohammed ordered the 2018 killing. In 2021, Prince Mohammed’s sovereign wealth fund approved the $2 billion investment in Mr. Kushner’s new firm despite objections from the fund’s own advisers.

Representative James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and chairman of the House Oversight Committee that is investigating the Bidens, acknowledged concerns with Mr. Kushner’s Saudi deal.

“I think that what Kushner did crossed the line of ethics,” Mr. Comer said when asked by CNN’s Jake Tapper earlier this month. “What Christie said, it happened after he left office. Still no excuse, Jake. But it happened after he left office. And Jared Kushner actually has a legitimate business. This money from the Bidens happened while Joe Biden was vice president, while he was flying to those countries.”

Mr. Trump has attacked President Biden for his son Hunter Biden’s overseas deal making.Credit…Kenny Holston/The New York Times

In fact, as Mr. Comer’s committee reports indicate, some of Hunter Biden’s overseas money came while his father was vice president, but a significant share came afterward.

Spokesmen for Mr. Comer and Mr. Trump did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr. Trump has never been allergic to foreign money. Even as a candidate in 2016, he secretly pursued a deal to build a Trump Tower in Moscow until after he had effectively secured the Republican nomination. One of his lawyers reached out to the Kremlin for support for the project, the same Kremlin that Mr. Trump would interact with a few months later as president.

To address concerns about foreign financial interests, Mr. Trump promised not to pursue new business overseas while in office, but he did not give up his many existing moneymaking ventures in other countries and his company, formally run by his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, continued to expand operations abroad.

During Mr. Trump’s four years in the White House, the Trump Organization received 66 foreign trademarks, according to a report by the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, with most of them coming from China but others from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Peru, the Philippines, Indonesia, Mexico, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union.

Foreign entities were good customers for Mr. Trump. While in office, 145 foreign officials from 75 governments visited Trump properties and foreign governments or affiliated groups hosted 13 events at his hotels and resorts, according to the ethics group report.

While Mr. Trump in last week’s video described Mr. Biden as a puppet of the Chinese, falsely claiming that “China has paid him a fortune,” his own family has had significant financial ties to Beijing. Beyond the trademarks, Forbes calculated that a Trump business during his presidency collected at least $5.4 million in rent from the state-controlled Industrial and Commercial Bank of China.

Mr. Kushner’s family negotiated with Chinese and Qatari entities to rescue its debt-saddled Manhattan tower at 666 Fifth Avenue, eventually brokering a $1.1 billion lease deal with an American company whose investors included Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. (By that time, Mr. Kushner had sold his share of the tower to a family trust of which he was not a beneficiary, and people involved in the deal said the Qataris did not know about the deal before it was made.)

Ivanka Trump, for her part, initially kept her own clothing and accessories line while serving on the White House staff and received approval for 16 trademarks from China in 2018 before later deciding to shut down the business.

Despite lawsuits by Mr. Eisen and others alleging violations of the Constitution’s emoluments clause, none of the Trump family’s overseas deal making was ever determined to be illegal by any authority. Nor has any of Hunter Biden’s.

But in Mr. Trump’s telling, one is enough to compromise a president and the other is not something to talk about.

- Advertisement -spot_img

SIMILAR ARTICLES

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -ArnieVille

LATEST ARTICLES