Visiting the Donald Trump campaign website, you can read some tough words describing how a President Trump would deal with China, label them a currency manipulator, bring trade cases against them, stop them from stealing American jobs and meddling in the US economy. Proponents of Trump point to these policies as the crown jewel of the Trump platform – middle class America is hurting economically, and it is apparently being hurt by foreign interests. It’s a facet in the attacks against Hillary Clinton as well: allegations of “pay for play” involving the Clinton Foundation, largely fueled by the debunked hysteria of Peter Schweizer’s Clinton Cash, have still managed to stoke skepticism of Hillary Clinton’s relationship to foreign money.
Donald Trump, for all of his obvious, crippling flaws, has cultivated the image of a man who will protect this country’s interests from the “other”. Many republican voters are willing to write off his tortured relationship with women, immigrants, and reality in general because they believe he is going to put this country first and make America a corpuscular leader, unencumbered by external forces.
The Trump campaign is determined to take the 2016 election into Cohen Brothers’ territory, however, and with only two weeks remaining to dial up the irony, enter Great America PAC.
Watch this video. What you have just seen is Great America PAC – an organization backed by top Trump adviser Rudy Giuliani and son Eric Trump – colluding with an undercover Telegraph reporters to funnel $2 million of illicit funds from their client in China to the campaign to elect Donald Trump.
In exchange, the foreign national donor is promised “influence”, assured that their illegal contributions would be “remembered” in a Trump White House.
The man representing Great America PAC is Jesse Benton: indicted for concealing bribes in 2012 used to buy a political endorsement, convicted in May 2016 of federal crimes comprising conspiracy, causing false records, causing false campaign expenditure reports, and making false statements. Today, he is a senior operative of Great America PAC and champion of similarly feathered bird, Donald Trump. He is the man seen in the video promising leverage in exchange for money and describing how the money will be laundered through other businesses in order to conceal the source. He also claimed to have helped donors conceal payments in the past; it’s probably safe to assume that he isn’t just bragging about the times he got caught.
As Dave Barry would say, I am not making this up.
Former counsel of the US Federal Election Commission Lawrence Noble weighs in:
“If there is evidence that representatives of a super PAC were soliciting or knowingly accepting foreign national money and helping arrange for it to get in to the super PAC through a 501(c)(4) organization, then it should be investigated by the FEC and by the Department of Justice as a criminal violation.”
Until the law enforcement has had their investigation – if there is one, there’s no telling where this will land legally. To voters, though, these are the takeaways based on what we already know happened:
- Donald Trump, who has attacked Hillary Clinton for her dependence on Super PAC money and connections to foreign money that was donated to charity through the Clinton Foundation, is receiving money from Super PACs who appear to have no qualms about taking illegal contributions from foreign nationals.
- Trump’s anti-Chinese rhetoric has played like a top 40s hit with his supporters at his rallies and in the debates. The fact that the people raising money for Trump seem to be so confident that they can deliver favors from the White House in exchange for cash casts serious doubt over whether Trump’s position on China isn’t entirely lip service.
- Technically, it’s illegal for Trump’s campaign to coordinate with the Great America PAC. What we’re seeing here appears to be Benton promising exactly that.
Notably, the undercover reporters of the Telegraph also approached pro-Clinton fundraisers with the same perfidious offer. There were no takers among them.
The Trump campaign is – arguably – already on its last leg, and this just might be the straw that broke the camel’s back.
Is there really anyone left who cares at this point? Probably not. If he hasn’t already crossed the line for tens of millions of his still-supporters, then maybe there is no line left to cross.