Blackmailing the President

There has been quite a bit of concern over Donald Trump’s conflicts of interest. Now, in Newsweek, Kurt Eichenwald gives specific examples of how this can cause really big problems. Like how a foreign leader could easily blackmail Trump. In fact, he even gives examples of how this is already happening:

Donald Trump hasn’t been sworn in yet, but he is already making decisions and issuing statements to world leaders that radically depart from American foreign policy, all to the benefit of his family’s corporate empire. Because of this, the next president of the United States is already vulnerable to undue influence by other nations, including through bribery and even blackmail.

That’s right, Trump is already damaging US interests.

The biggest example is Turkey:

Trump is in the process of building two Trump Towers in Istanbul, in partnership with the rich and powerful Doğan family. The family used their connections with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to make the project happen, but then found themselves in the midst of a corruption investigation. Erdogan, who is no fan of Trump, has turned against the Doğans, angry that they embarrassed him.

The day after our presidential election, one of the world leaders who called Trump to congratulate him was Erdogan. During the call, Trump made a point of telling the Turkish leader how important the Doğans are to him, and how much he wants to see the project go forward. Not long after that phone call, Erdogan ordered the founder of Doğan Holding and one of its highest-ranking executives – both of them singled out by name by Trump during the phone call — to be placed under arrest.

Erdogan, who has a long history of corruption, is attempting to blackmail Trump. One of Erdogan’s main political enemies, Fethullah Gulen, is living in the US, and Erdogan wants him extradited to Turkey. Until now, the US has refused because Turkey has not provided any evidence that Gulen has committed any crimes.

If Trump extradites Gulen, he will almost certainly face life in prison and torture. Or if Trump refuses, a project that will pay Trump and his family millions of dollars will be derailed.

What makes this really frightening is that if Trump gives in to Erdogan, then the leader of every country where Trump has business interests (and there’s a lot of them) will take notice. What will they ask for? Trade concessions? Cash? Military weapons? To have the US look the other way when they invade their neighbors or commit crimes, including genocide?

And that’s just one example. There are many more.

This blog has already reported about obvious conflicts of interest with the Philippines, where the president is summarily executing suspected drug users without any trial (along with, one might suspect, people he doesn’t like for other reasons). And Trump has praised him for it!

Why would Trump do that? Because Trump Tower at Century City in Makati, Philippines, is on the verge of completion. To make this even more suspicious, the president of the Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte, recently named as special envoy to the US one of Trump’s business partners in the Philippines:

The man writing millions of dollars’ worth of checks to the Trump family is the Duterte government’s special representative to the United States. To argue that these payments will be constitutional if they are paid to the Trump children, and not to Trump personally, is absurd. This conflict demands congressional hearings, and could be an impeachable offense.

The list of blatant conflicts of interest goes on and on.

For example, Argentina, where Trump has been trying to build an office project in Bueno Aires, but the government has refused to issue the permits. Trump actually called up the president of Argentina after the US election and personally asked him to deal with the permitting problems. Just three days after the call, the permits were approved, after years of delays.

It should really scare you that the president-elect of the US is calling up world leaders and asking them to do him personal favors. It is also unconstitutional, and grounds for impeachment.

Another example is Japan, where (bizarrely) Ivanka Trump sat in on what would have been a one-on-one meeting between Trump and the Japanese Prime Minister. At the same time, officials with her clothing company were working on a licensing agreement with Sanei International. The largest shareholder of Sanei’s parent company is the Development Bank of Japan, which is wholly owned by the Japanese government.

Trump claims he has turned over his businesses to his children, to avoid conflicts of interest, but then he invites them to sit in on what should be diplomatic meetings and phone calls.

Yet another example is Taiwan, whose success in playing Trump against China was widely reported, including in this blog.

This is blatant corruption of the worst kind, and it poses a grave danger to the US. It is also illegal and unconstitutional. The Newsweek article sums it up:

America is on the precipice of an unprecedented threat, as allies and enemies alike calculate whether they are dealing with a president they can please merely by enriching his children. President-elect Trump has a monumental choice before him: He can, as he promised during the campaign, protect the sanctity of the presidency — which he can do only by selling his company. Or he can remain corrupted by the conflicts between his country’s future and his family’s fortune.

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