The Trump Crime Family's Grifts are Right in Front of Our Noses

The walls are closing in on the Trump family.

Donald Trump sits with his wife Melania Trump and from left: daughter Tiffany, son Eric, daughter Ivanka and son Donald Trump Jr. while appearing at an NBC Town Hall at the Today Show on April 21, 2016 in New York City. AFP

Perhaps the oddest story from this long and depressing week – one that culminated in the 22nd school shooting in the first 20 weeks of 2018 -- may have been the government of the tiny, oil-rich nation of Qatar giving DC $100,000 to keep the Metro open for an extra hour following the Washington Capitals’ playoff game on Thursday.

We’ve been following the story of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE vying to influence the Trump regime by throwing piles of money its way because while it hasn’t exactly flown under the radar, the Trump-Russia story has gotten so much more attention.

There was plenty of news on this front in the past week. The big one was that the Kushner Company – the real estate firm that Jared Kushner continues to own a large stake in, according to The Intercept-- managed to secure a sweet deal from Qatar to bail out its underwater sky-scraper located at 666 Fifth Avenue in New York.  It turns out that the third time is a charm; the Kushners first sought out Qatari financing beginning in 2014. Jared then thought he had cut a deal with a shady Chinese company shortly after the election, and when that fell through, Kushner’s father, Charles, met with the Qataris and again pitched them on an investment deal.

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The Washington Post reported that “Charles Kushner was ‘crushed’ when the deal fell through,” and a month later, Trump reversed longstanding US policy in the region by claiming that Qatar, a key ally that was in the midst of a regional conflict with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, was a state sponsor of terrorism.

In March, The New York Times reported that the Saudis and the UAE had funneled millions of dollars in lucrative contracts to RNC fundraiser and close Trump ally Elliott Broidy in order to “turn [him] into an instrument of influence at the White House.” Right around that same time, the publisher of The National Enquirer,who's very close to Trump, published an odd, 100-page, ad-free magazine touting the wonders of Saudi Arabia – and insisted that this just happened organically. “The Saudis say they don’t know how it came to be,” reported Spencer Ackerman at The Daily Beast. “AMI, which publishes The National Enquirer, insists it had no outside editorial or financial assistance, from the Trump administration or otherwise.” OK, sure. Why not?

And that brings us to this week, when The Washington Post reported that Michael Cohen, Trump’s bagman and fixer, “solicited a payment of at least $1 million from the government of Qatar in late 2016, in exchange for access to and advice about the then-incoming administration.” The man Cohen tried to squeeze a million bucks out of was Ahmed Al-Rumaihi, a former diplomat who now oversees Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund. And this interaction reportedly went down on the sidelines of the infamous Trump Tower meeting at which the Trumpers attempted to obtain damaging info on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. (A certain prominent porn star’s lawyer was the first to reveal Al-Rumaihi’s presence at Trump Tower that day.)

Now, Al-Rumaihi is an… interesting figure. He’s at the center of a lawsuit by Ice Cube – because nothing is normal in 2018 – alleging that he and four other Qataris with close ties to the royal family promised to invest $20 million in a new basketball league in order to get close to Steve Bannon. No, we don’t quite get how that might work either. But the key point here is that in court testimony, Ice Cube and a business partner testified that Al-Rumaihi “was a shadow representative of the Qatari government, and boasted about bribing ‘several Washington politicians.’ One of these individuals was allegedly General Michael Flynn, Trump's former national security advisor who pled guilty in December 2017 to lying to the F.B.I. about his contact with the Russian government during Trump's transition to the presidency,” according to The Fader.

And here’s where this convoluted story may connect with Russiagate. Jeremy Stahl reported for Slate this week that Al-Rumaihi’s appearance at Trump Tower occurred just days “after news broke of the multibillion-dollar sale of 19.5 percent of the Russian fossil fuel giant Rosneft to Swiss trading firm Glencore and Qatar’s sovereign investment fund.” A central claim of the infamous Steele Dossier was that “Trump foreign policy adviser Carter Page, during an alleged meeting with Rosneft officials in summer 2016, promised that a Trump administration would undo sanctions against Russia, in part, in exchange for brokerage of the Rosneft deal. In May 2016, Al-Rumaihi reportedly took over as head of a major division of the wealth fund ultimately involved in the Rosneft deal.” Stahl adds that “the allegations in the Steele dossier, made in October 2016, suggested a future quid-pro-quo deal between Russia and the Trump campaign.”

And then The New York Times dropped another bombshell on this relationship, reporting on Saturday that “three months before the 2016 election, a small group gathered at Trump Tower to meet with Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son. One was an Israeli specialist in social media manipulation. Another was an emissary for two wealthy Arab princes. The third was [Erik Prince,] a Republican donor with a controversial past in the Middle East as a private security contractor.”

Bob Brigham has more details on this latest revelation.

What does all of this mean? We don’t know exactly, but on its face, it certainly seems shady as Hell. And you can be pretty sure that Special Counsel Robert Mueller does have a pretty good handle on all of this.

Unfortunately, this isn’t the only story out this week that just reeks of corruption.

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There were conflicting reports about the Chinese government negotiating with the Trump cabal to purchase some $200 billion in US goods so that Trump and the bobbleheads on Fox News could claim that he’d reduced the trade deficit. Chinese officials later denied that story.

But Josh Rogin reported for The Washington Post that China gave Trump “a list of crazy demands, and he caved to one of them.” That demand was reflected in a rather odd Tweet, in which Trump suddenly expressed concern for a Chinese company after blathering on for the past two years about how “Ginah” keeps ripping us off…

A few days earlier, the AP reported that “a Chinese government-owned company has signed on to build a theme park in a vast development in Indonesia that also features a Trump hotel and condos, a deal that stands to benefit President Donald Trump’s company just as top Chinese envoys head to Washington for trade talks.” China's investment will total $500 million, in case you wondering how much it costs to get Trump to pull an about-face on an issue he's been talking about for years.

This is happening right in front of our noses, but Trump knows that he enjoys immunity by Congressional majority and can get away with anything as long as Republicans control the other branches of government.

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Speaking of Trump properties, the DC hotel he leases from the government enjoyed revenues of $40 million last year, more than double what it took in during 2016, according to Bloomberg.The Washington Post listed all the foreign governments, business associations and lobbyists that have pumped cash into the property, in case you’re wondering who’s buying Trump’s loyalty.

And The Scotsman reported this week that “Donald Trump’s flagship Scottish resort received thousands of pounds in US taxpayers’ money to host VIP visits by officials from his administration.” And nobody really knows why US officials were staying there.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Bryan Lanza, “a former senior campaign and transition aide to President Donald Trump, recently inked a deal to help a Russian oligarch's conglomerate shed sanctions the Trump administration slapped on them last month,” according to CNN. That oligarch is Oleg Deripaska, “a billionaire who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin” and is reportedly a central player in #Russiagate. Nothing to see here, move along.

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Also from the Drain the Swamp file, USA Today reported that “lobbying firms managed by former campaign aides, fundraisers and others with ties to President Trump and Vice President Pence have collected at least $28 million in federal lobbying fees since Trump assumed the presidency.”

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A senior Department of Education official named Robert Eitel was “hired straight out of the for-profit college sector,” according to ABC News. As soon as he got the job, his first order of business was to “dismantle regulations designed to protect students defrauded by for-profit colleges into taking out five-figure loans on promises that they would get good jobs — a move that could benefit his former employers.”

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The White House worked with Scott Pruitt’s EPA “to block publication of a federal health study on a nationwide water-contamination crisis, after one Trump administration aide warned it would cause a ‘public relations nightmare,’” reported Politico this week. The study found that chemicals which “contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia… endanger human health at a far lower level than EPA has previously called safe.” Bad news -- or as they see it, bad PR -- so they just spiked it. To be honest, that’s really the only way to Make Toxic Water Supplies Great Again. Yes, we're tired of winning too.

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Speaking of pollution, “the Trump administration is considering forming an organization to promote coal and natural gas,” according to TPM. “Citing a document it obtained from a Trump administration source, E&E News described draft talking points for a ‘Clean and Advanced Fossil Fuel Alliance.’ The publication reported that the proposal came in response to a coalition of more than 20 countries, launched at the United Nations climate conference in Bonn, Germany last year, aiming to phase out coal power.”

Don’t worry, it’s all good when you understand that the real problem has nothing to do with burning fossil fuels...

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We want to make sure you caught several stories this week that suggest we’re no longer dealing with “creeping” authoritarianism because it has arrived in force at Trump’s White House.

First, if you missed Evan Osnos’s New Yorkerreport about how the regime consigned senior, non-political government officials to a kind of bureaucratic purgatory in retaliation for doing their jobs during the Obama years, you should definitely read it. Politicizing the bureaucracy is a giant red flag, and they’re doing it with gusto.

Relatedly, The Washington Post reported that Trump “personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages,… a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.” Translation: Trump is happy to use the levers of government to pursue a vendetta against Jeff Bezos, and is just as happy to screw over whoever it takes to do so.

Also this week, it was revealed that ICE is blatantly lying to judges, claiming without evidence that undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers, whom the rogue agency wants to deport are members of MS-13. Mark Joseph Stern has more on this extremely disturbing story at Slate.

Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported that the regime “is making preparations to hold immigrant children on military bases, …the latest sign the government is moving forward with plans to split up families who cross the border illegally.” They’re just talking about camps, where these people who only committed misdemeanors or civil offenses might be concentrated. Nothing to worry about.

Finally, Talking Points Memoreported this week that, “as the Trump administration moves aggressively to allow more states to impose mandatory work requirements on their Medicaid programs, several states have come under fire for crafting policies that would in practice shield many rural, white residents from the impact of the new rules.”

Because this week’s edition of What Fresh Hell? was so bleak, we’ll leave you with a short and delicious video of “racist lawyer bro” Aaron Schlossberg dodging reporters in the streets of New York City. Sound on, and enjoy!

Joshua Holland is Senior Digital Producer at BillMoyers.com, and host of Politics and Reality Radio. He's the author of The 15 Biggest Lies About the Economy. Drop him an email or follow him on Twitter