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Trump Has Always Been A Wreck Of A Human Being-- Of Course He Sold State Secrets To The Saudis

When I was in my twenties, I worked at a macrobiotic restaurant in Amsterdam. I learned to cook there— and, more important, I learned the principles of conscious cooking. We didn’t waste anything. I was taught to make anything taste delicious. One thing I am sure I couldn’t make taste delicious though is my hat. It’s a classic blue L.A. Dodgers baseball cap. It’s been to dozens of countries— from Mali to Bali, most recently back to Thailand. But I’m offering to eat it anyway. I’ll eat that hat if Trump didn’t sell state secrets to the Saudis.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, with no experience as a private equity investor, created his investment firm, Affinity, the day after Trump left the White House in January 2021 and the Saudi government’s sovereign wealth fund, controlled by Trump ally Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, gave it $2 billion six months later, despite strong objections from the fund’s advisers about the merits of the deal. The NY Times reported that the objections included: “the inexperience of the Affinity Fund management”; the possibility that the kingdom would be responsible for “the bulk of the investment and risk”; due diligence on the fledgling firm’s operations that found them “unsatisfactory in all aspects”; a proposed asset management fee that “seems excessive”; and “public relations risks” from Kushner’s prior role as a senior adviser to his father-in-law, former President Donald J. Trump, according to minutes of the panel’s meeting last June 30.” Bin Salman overruled the advisors.

At the time ethics experts said that the deal created the appearance of potential payback for Kushner’s actions in the White House— or of a bid for future favor if Trump seeks and wins another presidential term in 2024. Soon after, a letter to Kushner from the House Oversight Committee noted that “Your support for Saudi interests was unwavering, even as Congress and the rest of the world closely scrutinized the country’s human rights abuses in Yemen, the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi assassins tied to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on political dissidents at home.”

It was widely noted at the time that the Saudis invested twice as much and on more generous terms with Kushner than it did at about the same time with former Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin’s new fund, Liberty Strategic Capital (1.25% for Kushner and 1% for Mnuchin)— even though Mnuchin had a record as a successful investor before entering government. Kushner, on the other hand, started a fund with no theme or focus. Before working for his father-in-law in the White House, he ran his family’s commercial real estate empire, a gigantic financial bust. His best-known deal was the $1.8 billion purchase of the office tower at 666 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, in 2007; the building’s mortgage became a crippling liability when the recession hit the next year. What Kushner was successful at, however, was brokering $110 billion in weapons sales to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi’s $2 billion investment pays Kushner $25 million a year, not including a share of any profits earned by the Affinity fund.

Last August David Cay Johnston, a Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist, best-selling author and Trump biographer—The Making of Donald Trump (2016), It’s Even Worse Than You Think: What The Trump Administration Is Doing To America (2018) and The Big Cheat : How Donald Trump Fleeced America and Enriched Himself and His Family (2022)— wrote that “Despite Donald Trump’s many campaign rally boasts that he knows ‘everything’ about nuclear energy, he can’t tell you the difference between an atomic bomb and a hydrogen bomb. He’s a con artist, a know-nothing without even rudimentary knowledge of nuclear weaponry (the subject of Barack Obama’s senior college thesis) or national security. What Trump does know is this: Foreign governments whose dictatorial leaders he admires— North Korea, Russia and Saudi Arabia among them— would pay fortunes to acquire America’s most sensitive nuclear secrets. And what Donald knows is how to find buyers who will pay premium prices for whatever he has to unload. What had been the unthinkable idea that any American president would sell our national security secrets is suddenly front and center. From private citizen Trump’s Florida home the FBI recovered extensive national security materials belonging to our government. No previous American president has been the subject of a criminal investigation, much less one that raises the question of disloyalty for profit… A rich trove of evidence [from a 2019 congressional investigation] showed that the Trump administration was lackadaisical about Saudi and corporate efforts to obtain our government’s nuclear secrets.”

We don’t know for sure what, if anything, Trump sold, attempted to sell or left open for his Mar-a-Lago guests to peruse. That’s what trial after indictment is for, although public hearings by Congress would also be a brilliant idea.
But the question to ask now is this: What in hell was he doing with these materials? And why didn’t he turn them over when he was issued a subpoena for them months ago?
It’s hard to imagine any other reason Trump would take from the White House government documents so vital to our national security that authorized officials can examine them only in a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility or SCIF (pronounced skiff). The same holds for even talking about them. These are documents that Trump has no intellectual capacity to understand and no conceivable legitimate reason to possess.
Trump believes that while in office he had the power to declassify any document. If he is brought to trial by our federal government, as I fully expect, he would almost certainly assert this as a defense. That would be a typical Trumpian effort to muddy the waters and sow doubt about criminal intent among jurors. The likely defense claim would be that he thought he acted appropriately and made an honest mistake.
But what Trump almost certainly doesn’t know is that the Atomic Energy Act of 1946 governs nuclear secrets. Under that law, a president cannot unilaterally declassify materials. Any declassification involves a complex process requiring approval by experts in nuclear weaponry and national security.
Should a federal grand jury indict Trump under that 1946 statute, his ignorance of the law would be no defense.
Clearly, Donald Trump had no right to take any national security documents. He is now just another private citizen. His possession of these secrets is a federal felony. Prosecution is necessary if he held such documents, especially if any evidence exists showing Trump tried to sell out America for profit.
…At campaign rallies, Trump repeatedly praised the Saudis. He declared his love for them because they had put so much money in his pocket by buying apartments for tens of millions of dollars each and staying at his hotels and golf resorts.
The little-noticed 2019 congressional investigation began after multiple whistleblowers came forward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.
Keep this in mind in the context of four facts:
1- Trump’s refusal to sanction the Saudi regime for murdering an American journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in a Saudi consulate. Our government concluded the de facto dictator, Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud, ordered his most trusted guards to kill.
2- Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner developed a very close relationship with MBS, as the dictator is known, during the Trump era. They had hours-long, late-night telephone calls
3- The $2 billion that MBS gave Kushner to manage despite warnings by numerous Saudi financial advisers that Kushner lacked competency in money management and charged outrageously high fees.
4- Trump took the side of the Saudis and their friends in the United Arab Emirates against the government of Qatar, home to America’s most important military base in the Middle East, after the Qataris declined to extend a risky $800 million loan to Kushner.
That Donald Trump overrode the objections of national security experts and granted security clearances to his son-in-law Kushner and his daughter Ivanka, Kushner’s wife, assumes even greater importance in light of the events this week. They repeatedly revised the SF-86 forms that all candidates for security clearances must submit. A single omission or misstatement typically results in denying a security clearance. Trump approved his daughter and son-in-law despite many revisions and against the advice of security experts.

Yesterday, Ben Hubbard reporting from Istanbul, wrote how bin Salman has outmaneuvered hostile American politicians— from Joe Biden to Lindsey Graham (not to mention Jay Monahan, the head of golf’s prestigious PGA Tour). “It just tells you how money talks because this guy sits on top of this oil well and all this money, so he can basically buy his way out of everything,” said Abdullah Alaoudh, the Saudi director for the Freedom Initiative, a rights group in Washington and a vocal opponent of the monarchy.

Bin Salman’s “eventual recovery from the Khashoggi affair,” wrote Hubbard, “showed that the kingdom’s money could go a long way and that no matter how much Western governments talked about human rights, other interests ultimately took precedence. ‘The Gulf Arab states, they think it’s a joke,’ Dina Esfandiary, senior adviser for the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, said of human rights criticisms. ‘They really do grasp their worth to the Western world, as partners, as energy producers, as countries with economic might, so they say, We can handle this empty threat because it just part of the relationship.’”

Although Cyndi Lauper had a cheesy hit with “Money Changes Everything,” the song originally came out in 1978 by the Atlanta-based new wave band The Brains… and it’s much better than Lauper’s cover:

I said I'm sorry baby I'm leaving you tonight

I found someone new, he's waitin' in the car outside

Ah honey how could you do it

We swore each other everlasting love

I said well yeah I know but when we did;

There was one thing we weren't

Thinking of and that's money

Money changes everything

I said money, money changes everything

We think we know what we're doin'

That don't mean a thing

It's all in the past now

Money changes everything

They shake your hand and they smile

And they buy you a drink

They say we'll be your friends

We'll stick with you till the end

Ah but everybody's only

Looking out for themselves

And you say well who can you trust

I'll tell you it's just

Nobody else's money

Money changes everything

I said money, money changes everything

You think you know what you're doin'

We don't pull the strings

It's all in the past now

Money changes everything

Money, money changes everything

I said money, money changes everything

We think we know what we're doing

We don't know a thing

It's all in the past now

Money changes everything

Money changes everything

Money changes everything, money changes everything, money changes everything, money changes

By the way, while I was listening to The Brains, I had s serious discussion with HAL about “a hypothetical powerful, greed-driven politician with no sense of ethics or patriotism who steals nuclear secrets and decides to sell them secretly to a foreign power.” I asked HAL to tell me to which countries that politician might turn. It responded that “The choice of the country to which the politician might sell the secrets would depend on various factors such as geopolitical considerations, existing relationships, potential financial gains, and the country's level of interest in acquiring such secrets.” It offered several alternatives:

  • North Korea has shown interest in nuclear weapons and has pursued its own nuclear program. The country's isolation, along with its history of illicit activities, might make it an option for someone seeking to sell nuclear secrets.

  • Iran’s nuclear program has been a subject of international concern and scrutiny. If the politician believes there is an opportunity for financial gain, they might consider selling the secrets to a country that has expressed interest in nuclear technology.

  • Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In this scenario, if the politician seeks financial gain, they might see Saudi Arabia as a potential buyer due to its resources and interest in nuclear technology.

  • China is a significant global player and has been investing in its nuclear capabilities. It has also faced accusations of espionage and intellectual property theft in the past. Therefore, it could be considered a potential buyer in this hypothetical situation.

  • Russia is a nuclear power with advanced capabilities and a history of espionage activities. If the politician wants to sell the secrets for geopolitical reasons or seeks financial gain, Russia might be seen as an attractive buyer due to its interest in maintaining or expanding its nuclear arsenal.

  • Israel is widely believed to possess nuclear weapons, though it maintains a policy of ambiguity. If the politician aims to profit financially or sees strategic value in sharing the secrets with a close ally, they might consider Israel as a potential buyer.

Six years ago, almost to the week, Marie Brenner wrote about how half a century ago “a brash young would-be developer from Queens met one of New York’s premier power brokers: Roy Cohn, whose name is still synonymous with the rise of McCarthyism and its dark political arts. With the ruthless attorney as a guide, Trump propelled himself into the city’s power circles and learned many of the tactics that would inexplicably lead him to the White House years later.” When she first met Cohn (then Trump’s alter ego) in 1980, he told her that Trump called him “15 to 20 times a day… “Cohn,” she wrote, “was best known as a ruthless prosecutor. During the Red Scare of the 1950s, he and Wisconsin senator Joe McCarthy, the fabulist and virulent nationalist crusader, had hauled dozens of alleged “Communist sympathizers” before a Senate panel. Earlier, the House Un-American Activities Committee had skewered artists and entertainers on similar charges, resulting in a trail of fear, prison sentences, and ruined careers for hundreds, many of whom had found common cause in fighting Fascism. But in the decades since, Cohn had become the premier practitioner of hardball deal-making in New York, having mastered the arcane rules of the city’s Favor Bank (the local cabal of interconnected influence peddlers) and its magical ability to provide inside fixes for its machers and rogues.

“You knew when you were in Cohn’s presence you were in the presence of pure evil,” said lawyer Victor A. Kovner, who had known him for years. Cohn’s power derived largely from his ability to scare potential adversaries with hollow threats and spurious lawsuits. And the fee he demanded for his services? Ironclad loyalty.
Trump— who would remain loyal to Cohn for many years— would be one of the last and most enduring beneficiaries of Cohn’s power. But as Trump would confide in 1980, he already seemed to be trying to distance himself from Cohn’s inevitable taint: “All I can tell you is he’s been vicious to others in his protection of me,” Trump told me, as if to wave away a stench. “He’s a genius. He’s a lousy lawyer, but he’s a genius.”
…For author Sam Roberts, the essence of Cohn’s influence on Trump was the triad: “Roy was a master of situational immorality… He worked with a three-dimensional strategy, which was: 1. Never settle, never surrender. 2. Counter-attack, counter-sue immediately. 3. No matter what happens, no matter how deeply into the muck you get, claim victory and never admit defeat.” As columnist Liz Smith once observed, “Donald lost his moral compass when he made an alliance with Roy Cohn.”
…As Donald Trump would later tell the story, he ran into Cohn for the first time at Le Club, a members-only nightspot in Manhattan’s East 50s, where models and fashionistas and Eurotrash went to be seen. “The government has just filed suit against our company,” Trump explained, “saying that we discriminated against blacks… What do you think I should do?”
“Tell them to go to hell and fight the thing in court and let them prove you discriminated,” Cohn shot back. The Trumps would soon retain Cohn to represent them.
The evidence was damning. At 39 Trump-owned properties, according to the Department of Justice lawsuit, widespread practices were used to avoid renting to blacks, including implementing a secret code. When a prospective black renter would apply for an apartment, the paperwork would allegedly be marked with a C— indicating “colored” (a charge that, if true, would constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act). Nevertheless, the Trumps countersued the government. “It just stunned me,” the lawyer and journalist Steven Brill recently recalled. “They actually got reporters to appear for a press conference where they announced that they were suing [the Justice Department] for defamation for $100 million. You couldn’t get through your second day of law school without knowing it was a totally bogus lawsuit. And, of course, it was thrown out.”
A race-discrimination case of this magnitude might have sunk many a developer, but Cohn persisted. Under his guidance, the Trumps settled by agreeing to stipulations to prevent future discrimination at their properties— but came away without admitting guilt. (With that, a Trump strategy was launched. Decades later, when questioned about the case in one of the presidential debates, Trump would declare, “It was a federal lawsuit— [we] were sued. We settled the suit . . . with no admission of guilt.”)
…How to explain the symbiosis that existed between Roy Cohn and Donald Trump? Cohn and Trump were twinned by what drove them. They were both sons of powerful fathers, young men who had started their careers clouded by family scandal. Both had been private-school students from the boroughs who’d grown up with their noses pressed against the glass of dazzling Manhattan. Both squired attractive women around town. (Cohn would describe his close friend Barbara Walters, the TV newswoman, as his fiancée. “Of course, it was absurd,” Liz Smith said, “but Barbara put up with it.”)
Sometime during the 2016 presidential campaign, Brill noticed that Donald Trump was using Cohn’s exact phrases. “I began to hear, ‘If you want to know the truth,’ and ‘that I can tell you . . .’ and ‘to be absolutely frank’—a sign that the Big Lie was coming,” Brill said.
… “Come and make your pitch to me,” Roy Cohn told Roger Stone when they met at a New York dinner party in 1979. Stone, though only 27, had achieved a degree of notoriety as one of Richard Nixon’s political dirty-tricksters. At the time, he was running Ronald Reagan’s presidential-campaign organization in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, and he needed office space.
Stone appeared on East 68th Street to find Cohn, just awakened, in his robe, sitting with one of his clients, Mob boss “Fat Tony” Salerno, of the Genovese crime family. “In front of [Roy] was a slab of cream cheese and three burnt slices of bacon,” Stone remembered. “He ate the cream cheese with his pointing finger. He listened to my pitch and said, ‘You need to see Donald Trump. I will get you in, but then you are on your own.’ ”
“I went to see him,” Stone told me, “and Trump said, ‘How do you get Reagan to 270 electoral votes?’ He was very interested [in the mechanics]—a political junkie. Then he said, ‘O.K., we are in. Go see my father.’ ” Out Stone went to Avenue Z, in Coney Island, and met Fred Trump in his office, which was crowded with cigar-store Indians. “True to his word, I got $200,000. The checks came in $1,000 denominations, the maximum donation you could give. All of these checks were written to ‘Reagan For President.’ It was not illegal— it was bundling. Check trading.” For Reagan’s state headquarters, the Trumps found Stone and the campaign a decrepit town house next to the ‘21’ Club. Stone was now, like Donald Trump, inside the Cohn tent.
And Stone soon seized the moment to cash in. After Reagan was elected, his administration softened the strict rules for corporations seeking government largesse. Soon Stone and Paul Manafort, Trump’s future campaign manager, were lobbyists, reaping the bonanzas that could flow with Favor Bank introductions. Their first client, Stone recalled, was none other than Donald Trump, who retained him, irrespective of any role Manafort might have had in the firm, for help with federal issues such as obtaining a permit from the Army Corps of Engineers to dredge the channel to the Atlantic City marina to accommodate his yacht, the Trump Princess.
“We made no bones about it,” Stone recently said. “We wanted money. And it came pouring in.” Stone and Manafort charged hefty fees to introduce blue-chip corporations—such as Ronald Perelman’s MacAndrews & Forbes and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.— to their former campaign colleagues, some of whom were now running the Reagan White House. It was all cozy and connected—and reminiscent of Roy Cohn.
…Cohn also had asked a favor of Trump: Could he give him a hotel room for his lover, who was dying of AIDS? A room was found in the Barbizon Plaza Hotel. Months passed. Then Cohn got the bill. Then another. He refused to pay. At some point, according to The New York Times’s Jonathan Mahler and Matt Flegenheimer, Trump would present Cohn with a thank-you gift for a decade of favors: a pair of diamond cuff links. The diamonds turned out to be fakes.
Tensions between the two became progressively strained. And the dying Cohn, as Barrett would describe him in those waning days, would say, “Donald pisses ice water.”
That said, Trump did come out to testify on Cohn’s behalf at his 1986 disbarment hearing, one of 37 character witnesses, including Barbara Walters and William Safire. But none of it mattered. Cohn, after putting up a four-year fight, was kicked out of the New York Bar for “dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation.” Cohn’s nefarious practices had finally caught up with him.

Have Trump's? That will play over over the coming months. Let's just hope he doesn't take down the whole country with him in the process. Not this again!

1 Comment

Jun 11, 2023

shitholes do tend to find their worst... and then elect them to run things.

in a real shithole, like this one, party does not matter. biden is shit. he just stinks a little less than trump. but trump could still win the rematch. cuz this is a shithole.

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