With the Emoluments Clause of the US Constitution ignored, the Trump administration has turned US foreign policy into an instrument that rewards the Trump Organization’s investors and business partners, punishes its enemies, and enriches members of the Trump family and those of the Jared Kushner clan. The Emoluments Clause forbids a president of the United States and members of the administration from using his or her position to enrich themselves by receiving gifts or emoluments—cash and other valuable financial instrument—from foreign states without the consent of the US Congress.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has been busy ridding the department of seasoned diplomats and geographical specialists to spur on the “privatization” of American foreign policy for the benefit of the Trumps, Kushners, Mercers, Koch brothers, and all the other billionaires who support reducing government control of anything to nil. The State Department is being turned into a virtual public relations arm for the Trump Organization, Inc. and its business partners and affiliates, worldwide.
In April 2017, the State Department and US embassies in London, Tokyo, and Tirana began posting on their websites and Facebook pages, which normally direct users how to obtain or renew US visas and passports, advertisements for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
The privatization of US foreign policy as a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization and its over 500 tax-dodging limited liability corporations, shell companies, and limited partnerships around the world has resulted in a totally inconsistent American policy on such issues as human rights, the Middle East, and trade. Trump’s interactions with Argentina’s proto-fascist president, Mauricio Macri, have had little to do with Macri’s poor treatment of the opposition and press in Argentina and everything to do with advancing stalled plans for a Trump Tower in Buenos Aires. Macri has held a personal financial stake in the enterprise.
Recently, the US State Department labeled Myanmar’s treatment of its Muslim Rohingya population in Rakhine State, which borders Bangladesh, an ethnic “genocide.” Trump officials began drawing up sanctions on Myanmar and prohibited US diplomats from visiting Rakhine State. Is the Trump administration worried about Muslim Rohingya in Myanmar because of its concern about human rights? The Saudi government, which Trump backs wholeheartedly, has financed madrassas and jihadist-oriented groups in Rakhine State from Wahhabist circles in neighboring Bangladesh. Trump’s slant to the Rohingyas, while abandoning the Muslim Kurds of Syria and Iraq to please Turkey and Saudi Arabia, is to protect Trump hotel and golf course interests in Saudi Arabia and the Saudi client state, the United Arab Emirates. Saudi Arabia’s image with the Trump administration is also boosted by the fact that the Saudi Mission to the United Nations rents office space in the Trump World Tower in New York.
Similarly, the arrest and jailing of former Panamanian President and Trump friend Ricardo Martinelli in Miami, Florida, has little to do with any US commitment to clean government in Panama but everything to do with keeping Martinelli, a partner in the Trump Ocean Club International Hotel & Tower in Panama City, out of prison in Panama. Martinelli was arrested in Coral Gables, Florida, on June 17 by US authorities on an extradition warrant from the Panamanian government. Since that time, Martinelli has appealed his extradition to Panama as the US Justice Department drags its feet on the entire extradition process.
The last thing Trump or Attorney-General Jeff Sessions want to see is Martinelli hauled before a court in Panama and answering prosecutors’ questions about his simultaneous dealings with the Trump family and Latin American drug dealers on investments in the Trump Tower project. It is widely known that Trump Tower Panama attracted millions of dollars in laundered money in sales of condominiums to notorious drug syndicate chieftains from Colombia.
Trump has been particularly vehement against Iran. Again, we find Trump business interests lying at the heart of Trump’s ratcheting up tensions with Tehran. In addition, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is close to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the Jewish Orthodox politicians who support Netanyahu, has been kibitzing with Saudi Crown Prince and emerging strongman Mohammed bin Salman to develop a common Saudi-Israeli-American strategy toward Iran.
Qatar, which is on bin Salman’s enemies list, also finds itself on Trump’s. Even the fact that Qatar’s Mission to the UN also rents offices in Trump World Tower in New York has not dissuaded Trump from supporting Saudi Arabia’s punishing acts directed at Doha, including a trade and transportation embargo. There are reports that Trump decided to go after Qatar because the emirate turned down a request from Kushner to invest $500 million in the failing Kushner building on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Kushner has also been behind freezing US relations with Palestine and threatening to close the Palestinian diplomatic mission in Washington.
During the first six months of its operations, the Trump International Hotel in Washington, which conveniently sits between the White House and the US Capitol in the Old Post Office building, raked in over a quarter of a million dollars in revenue from events hosted by Saudi Arabia at the hotel. Such brazen violations of the Emoluments Clause had an immediate effect. The Trump administration actively opposed a law—Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act or JASTA—that permitted the families of the victims of the 9/11 attack to sue the Saudi government for helping to finance Al Qaeda. The Saudis and Trump had the temerity to host US military veterans brought to Washington from around the United States to oppose JASTA at a gathering held at the Trump hotel.
In response to such Saudi largesse, Trump has backed Saudi campaigns against Iran, Qatar, Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas, and Yemen. No sooner had Trump been sworn in as president, Kuwait moved the gala celebration of their National Day to the Trump hotel in Washington. Kuwait followed Saudi Arabia’s lead in freezing diplomatic ties with Iran and Qatar, carried out with the blessing of Kushner and Netanyahu.
In June 2017, after Chinese and Indian troops faced off in a border clash in the Doklam tri-border region of Sikkim, Tibet, and Bhutan, the Trump administration publicly backed India. Chinese state media responded to Trump’s India tilt by stating that Indian troops caused the confrontation in the Himalayan region on the orders of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Chinese believed that Modi wanted a military border confrontation with China to impress Trump before the Modi-Trump meeting in Washington. By pointing to Indian troops standing eye-to-eye with the Chinese on the border, Modi hoped to convince Trump that India was a worthy ally in any future standoff with China. However, when Chinese President Xi Jinping hosted Trump at a November 2017 visit to Beijing, Trump, who enjoys being honored by red carpets and banquets, lavished praise on his Chinese hosts. It is doubtful that Trump even remembered the Indian-Chinese border clash.
But Trump never forgets where his assets are located. India is the home to several Trump- branded hotel, condominium, and office building properties operated through DT India Venture, LLC: DT Tower Gurgaon, LLC; and Trump Marks Pune II, LLC. Trump also knows enough not to alienate China. Trump Marks Macau LLC represents Trump’s desire to break into the casino and hotel business in Macau, which is a Special Administrative Region of China. Macau’s gambling industry has long been a three-party monopoly controlled by Trump’s casino tycoon friends Sheldon Adelson and Steve Wynn, in addition to Stanley Ho. Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who is married to Jared Kushner, is dependent on business arrangements with China that allow her Ivanka-brand merchandise to be marketed in China via IT [Ivanka Trump] Operations LLC; IT Handbags, LLC; IT Outerwear LLC; and IT Collection, LLC.
When it comes to US foreign policy, it is no longer what is in the interests of the American people but what best serves the business interests of the Trumps and Kushners, as well as their affiliated business syndicate members.
This article originally appeared in Strategic Culture Foundation on-line journal.
Wayne Madsen is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and nationally-distributed columnist. He is the editor and publisher of the Wayne Madsen Report (subscription required).