President Donald Trump sure wants to convey concern about the disappearance and suspected murder of Saudi journalist and dissident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week — but his family’s closeness with the Saudi royal family may pose an unavoidable conflict of interest in his handling of the crisis.
The Saudis, Trump’s frequently said, are customers of his. “Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them,” he said in 2015 on the campaign trail. “They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million. Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”
And Jared Kushner is known to be close with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. MBS reportedly bragged after meeting with Kushner last year that Kushner was “in his pocket,” and that, in The Intercept’s words, “Kushner had discussed the names of Saudis disloyal to the crown prince.”
“Before Khashoggi’s disappearance,” the Washington Post reported Tuesday, “U.S. intelligence intercepted communications of Saudi officials discussing a plan to capture him.” The State Department said Wednesday that the the Trump administration “had no advanced knowledge of Jamal Khashoggi’s disappearance.”
One thing’s for sure: Trump does not favor sanctions on the country. Asked about America’s arms dealing relationship with Saudi Arabia Thursday, Trump was dismissive: “As to whether or not we should stop $110 billion [for American weaponry] from being spent in this country, knowing they have four or five alternatives, two very good alternatives, that would not be acceptable.”
ProPublica and WNYC’s profile of Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson begins with Trump’s effort, during a February 2017 golf outing, to pressure Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe into getting Adelson a casino license.
Another telling scoop: Former EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt “expedited” an EPA research contract for an Israeli friend of Adelson’s who owns Watergen, which produces technology to extract water from air, despite EPA officials warning that the technology was nothing special and that “the lawyers are worried.”
Speaking of: Pruitt’s replacement as EPA administrator has a history of liking and commenting on racist and conspiratorial Facebook posts.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has refused to give Congress documents concerning three members of the President’s Mar-a-Lago club who, despite having no qualifications, reportedly play a major role in VA policy decisions. The VA cited an ongoing lawsuit, likely one from the liberal veterans group VoteVets, to justify the stonewalling.
“We have received nothing from VA except excuses,” House Veterans Affairs Committee Ranking Member Tim Walz (D-MN) said in response this week. “The reports of corruption and cronyism are serious and we cannot allow VA to sweep this under the rug.”
Finally: Nikki Haley has announced her resignation as UN ambassador. A day prior to that announcement, the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington requested an investigation into several private plane rides Haley and her husband accepted from South Carolina businessmen. Haley justified the flights on disclosure forms by citing “long standing personal friendship” with the businessmen.