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Personal Business Ties: Trump Interests Help Clear Bin Salman of Khashoggi Killing

Alwaght– Days after the CIA concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered the killing of the outspoken journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, the world was expecting President Donald Trump to take punitive measures against the Saudi prince. To everyone’s frustration, the president supported the criminal prince and said that relations with the oil-rich kingdom will continue intact and the multi-billion arms deals will go as planned.

In reaction, many media outlets and experts pointed to the huge weapons contracts, or sweeteners to be exact, and the Saudi role in the implementation of the US regional strategy including supporting the  Israeli regime and confrontation of the Iran-led Axis of Resistance as the causes behind this stance.

Moreover, recently reports have emerged about influence of Trump’s secret business with Saudi Arabia and the UAE on the way the American leader treated the Khashoggi murder case. On Sunday, the Al-Khalij Online website, citing unnamed Saudi prince, reported that as the Khashoggi case unfolded, Bin Salman and Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan threatened Trump that if he decides to allow a “coup” inside the royal family against Mohammed, they will reveal financial information and documents that will bring conviction to him and endanger his presidency.

Earlier this years, Bloomberg estimated Trump’s wealth to be $2.9 billion. The figure is reached by the assessment of his properties and assets. The interesting point is that an important part of his assets is associated with “parts of his real estate conglomerate” in West Asia.

Trump business ties to Saudis

According to a report by the New York Times, Trump’s business relations with Saudi state, as well as the Saudi business executives, date back to the 1990s. In this decade, Trump repeatedly has teetered on the brink of bankruptcy but each time was saved by highly lucrative business ties with Saudis, the NYT reports. In 1991, the US daily goes on, when Trump was in $900 million debt for an entertainment enterprise, he sold to the super-rich Saudi Prince Waleed bin Talal his Yacht for $20 million. A couple of years later, the prince saved Trump from another financial trouble. He helped him pay off his debts to creditors by buying Trump New York’s Plaza Hotel for over $300 million.

Timothy L. O’Brien, the writer of “Trump Nation: The Art of Being the Donald” has said that these deals were one-sided — in the prince’s favor. He said Trump was in dire financial straits, so the prince got a good price. But, back then, there was no indication that Saudis wanted to curry favor with Trump by giving him a better deal.

“Talal saw him as a profit center, not as somebody who he was cultivating as a future president,” Washington post quoted O’Brien as saying. The Post further said Saudi Arabia paid Trump $4.5 million for an apartment near the UN.

The Post continued that business from Saudi-connected customers continued to be important after Trump won the presidency. Saudi lobbyists spent $270,000 last year to reserve rooms at Trump’s hotel in Washington. Just this year, Trump’s hotels in New York and Chicago reported significant upticks in bookings from Saudi visitors. The rooms were reserved for people who lobbied against Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, a law passed by Congress to allow 9/11 victims’ families to sue Saudi Arabia for 2001 terrorist attacks.

In March, the general manager of the Trump International Hotel in Manhattan Prince A. Sanders had good news to the investors: After two years of decline, revenue from room rentals went up 13 percent in the first three months of 2018 thanks to bin Salman visit to New York. Bin Salman and other royals did not stay at the hotel because it had not enough suites to accommodate them. But Sanders said the hotel managed to accommodate many of the accompanying travelers. Before the visit, hotel Trump was struggling with a bad financial situation.

While in presidential campaigns, media said, Trump was planning to build a luxury hotel in Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah, a resort city on Red Sea coasts.

“Saudi Arabia, I get along with all of them. They buy apartments from me. They spend $40 million, $50 million,” Trump told a crowd at an Alabama rally on August 21, 2015, adding: “Am I supposed to dislike them? I like them very much.”

Trump and UAE relations

In 2016, Trump planned an entertainment project worth of over $6 billion in Dubai. The project includes some 100 luxury villas and a large golf course for wealthy people.

UAE’s Landmark Group, the largest retailer across the region, signed in February 2015 a contract to sell Trump Home Decor collection, which includes wall lighting, bathroom accessories, mirrors and home accents such as faux antique bird cages and coat racks, in its Lifestyle stores.

The US media show increasing interest to track Trump family’s business relations in Persian Gulf Arab states. Ivanka Trump once was cited by the US media as saying that Dubai is “important” for her family business. She continued that Trump firm pays special attention to business opportunities in Saudi Arabia, UAE, and Qatar. The American media, furthermore, reported that George Nader, a Lebanese businessman, before the elections met Kushner and informed him of the Saudi and Emirati royals’ interest to help his father-in-law in the presidential race.

Congress and Supreme Court seek to disclose facts

Are Saudis seeking to fill Trump pockets with cash? If yes, what do they expect in exchange? These are the questions being raised after recent Trump position on Khashoggi case by the American public, media, lawmakers, and even the judicial officials. Richard Blumenthal, Democrat of Connecticut, who leads the Congress motion for full disclosure of Trump family business ties to Saudi Arabia, said he hoped he could press for further details of the two sides’ business exchanges.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, on the other side, last week launched a case accusing Trump of violating the law by pursuing personal interests while occupying White House. Frosh said he wanted to make sure Trump preferred national interests over his personal interests. In February 2017, Kuwait embassy celebrated the national day in Trump’s D.C hotel. In September 2017, Malaysian PM Najib Razak, who is under corruption scrutiny, in his official visit to Washington with a large number of accompanying visitors stayed in Trump hotel.

Over the past year, however, Trump Organization chose to be more cautious in arranging ties with Persian Gulf Arab states. Last week, the group stated that it presently has no plans for new joint projects with Saudi Arabia in building new hotels.

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