Is Donald Trump Using The Presidency For Profit?

It only took three telephone calls for Donald Trump to prove how easy it would be to use American foreign policy to further his private business interests.

In the past week, the President-Elect has spoken with the leaders of Pakistan, Taiwan and the Philippines.  The Trump Organization has business interests in all three countries.

Each call with a foreign leader is fraught with danger as each country is a potential geopolitical trouble spot. The New York Times reports that Trump’s calls with world leaders, without apparent preparation, leaves diplomats aghast. Trump is skipping most daily intelligence briefings. Has he properly prepared for the calls?  We hope so, since we learned during the campaign his geopolitical knowledge is thinner than the crepes at IHOP.

The leaders that Trump spoke with are not from minor countries without competing interests. Pakistan is a rival of neighboring India; Taiwan has a long and troubled with its gigantic neighbor, China. And the Philippines has a new leader who shows dangerous dictatorial tendencies.

Hamilton Electors may look at these events and put an end to this temptingly unwise use of foreign policy by denying Trump the presidency. If they do, they’ll be faithful electors, faithful to their role to keep the presidency away from unqualified individuals.

TAIWAN

Donald Trump spoke with Tsai Ing-wen, President of Taiwan and immediately upended more than 30 years of American foreign policy.  Not since 1979 has an American President spoken with that island’s leader. Instead, following Richard Nixon’s trip to mainland China in 1972, America has followed a “One China” policy, concentrating its foreign policy with 1.357-billion-person- strong mainland China, based in Beijing.

The Guardian notes that Trump’s phone call with Taiwan’s president risks China’s wrath.

Why did Trump put in jeopardy America’s relations with the most populous country  in the world?  We can’t know for sure, yet… but there appears to be a business reason for the approach.

It turns out that Trump wants to build hotels in Taiwan. Specifically, The Guardian is reporting that a woman claiming ties to the Trump organization recently made inquiries about a major investment in building luxury hotels a part of the island’s new airport development.  Such hotels cannot be approved by the government of the People’s Republic of China in Beijing, where the US has formal diplomatic relations.  They can be approved by the government in Taiwan, however, of which Ms. Tsai is the leader.

China initially referred to Trump’s call as a “petty move” but has now lodged a formal diplomatic protest.

Even before he is inaugurated he has sparked his first diplomatic crisis.

Trump has expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gaddafi and Kim Jong Un.

What do Trump’s four favorite leaders have in common?  They’re all dictators.

PAKISTAN 

Donald Trump spoke this week with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif.  It is a breach of protocol that has caused consternation in India.  Pakistan and India are both allies of the United States but deeply distrustful of one another. Both have nuclear weapons. The two nations have gone to war against each other three times since they gained independence from Britain in 1947. Recent deadly cross-border attacks over the disputed territory of Kashmir have increased tensions dramatically in just the last two months.

Normal diplomatic protocol would set up such a phone call well in advance, giving India early notice so they are not distressed when a call with Pakistan occurs. Doing so reduces stress and limits expectations. Showing favoritism to one at the expense of the other can destabilize the peace.

Why did Trump take the risk of alienating India, a key ally with more than 1.2 billion people?

It turns out Trump already has hotels in India, but apparently not in Pakistan. The possibility of a Trump golf course in Lahore or a Trump Tower in Islamabad has been the subject of at least satirical speculation in the Pakistani press. The linked article is humor and may not meant to be taken seriously, but many believe there is truth to all humor. In any event, the possibilities exist.

There are other bases for additional speculation for Trump business interests in Pakistan.

We know many things about Trump: he is loyal to those who are loyal to him.  Paul Manafort, for example, was Trump’s second campaign chairman. He was forced to resign after his ties to Ukranian politicians and associates of Vladimir Putin became known.  The specific charge was that Manafort was politically toxic and working to undermine American interests in Ukraine.

Yahoo news reports that for more than five years,  Manafort acted as an unregistered lobbying agent for a front group for ISI, a Pakastani intelligence operation, in a false flag operation. It was later charged that this was part of a scheme to secretly influence U.S. policy toward the disputed territory of Kashmir. Manafor was paid about $700,000 for his services.

So, while we cannot identify a specific real estate project involved, the establishment of a relationship between Trump and the leader of Pakistan is serious business, indeed.

THE PHILIPPINES

Donald Trump already has business interests in The Philippines.

Bloomberg News reports that Century Properties Group Inc. of Manila, the company behind the $150 million tower that’s set to open next year, paid as much as $5 million to use the Trump name, in a licensing agreement that’s common for the president-elect.

More importantly, Trump’s business partner, the CEO and controlling shareholder of the company, has recently been appointed special envoy of the Philippines President, Rodrigo Duterte. Can you spell “access”?

Duterte is a highly controversial figure. He is reputed to have ordered the extrajudicial killing (e.g. murder) of more than 2500 of his own citizens who were alleged to be involved in the drug trade. The victims included children. Collateral damage, oh well.

Duterte threatened to expel American troops from the Philippines. When President Obama cooled towards Duterte, he responded by calling Obama “a son of a whore.”

So what did the patriot Donald Trump do after such a slight to the outgoing American President? He invited Duterte to visit him in the White House.

As a practical matter, there is no difference between a dictatorship and a representative democracy with a single-party legislature that acts as a rubber stamp.

WHO ARE SOME OF THE RICHEST PEOPLE IN THE WORLD?  HINT:  VLADIMIR PUTIN

Leaders of many nations are among the richest people in the world. Why not President Trump? Why shouldn’t the former reality star turn the Land of the Free into his own Bonanza?

Here’s a list of the richest leaders in the world, according to Time, Inc. as of 2015:

richest-royals-2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As for Donald Trump, CNN reports Trump has a “soft spot for dictators.” He has expressed admiration for Vladimir Putin, the late Saddam Hussein, the late Muammar Gaddafi and for Kim Jong Un of North Korea.

What do Trump’s four favorite leaders have in common?  They’re all dictators, of course. However, that may not all that Trump admires about them. It turns out, they all are (or were) billionaires.

Vladimir Putin  $200 Billion (est.)

Kim Jong-Un  $4 Billion plus

Saddam Hussein   $2 Billion (2002)

Muammar Gaddafi   $1 Billion plus

What the two charts tell us is that if you are a leader of a country and it doesn’t have vast oil reserves, a good way to become a billionaire is to become a dictator. You can then use your position  to make “deals” favorable to your own business interests and nobody who values their freedom will care.

As a practical matter, there is no difference between a dictatorship and a representative democracy with a single-party legislature that acts as a rubber stamp.

It is possible Donald Trump is following this path. Knowing what we know about Donald Trump, would that be a surprise?

For one, such a theory explains how incurious Trump is about foreign policy.  Maybe Trump is turning down his daily intelligence briefing because he doesn’t want to know anything that would compromise his ability to make a deal.  In addition, he cannot be charged with misusing information he does not get. This is a twisted form of plausible deniability.

SO WHY IS DONALD TRUMP MAKING ALL THESE PHONE CALLS NOW?

Certainly, time is money, and the sooner relationships are forged and projects put on a fast track, the sooner the Trump Organization can benefit.

But perhaps there is a second reason.

Donald Trump may be doing all these things before he is inaugurated so that he does not run afoul of the “emoluments clause” or the oath of office that requires him to “do his best to preserve protect and defend the United States of America”.

On the other hand, the Obama administration made similar calls in 2008 to introduce the President-Elect. The difference, of course, is that President Obama wasn’t a billionaire, and he didn’t use his alleged business acumen as the prime reason people should vote for him. (Trump’s $25 million settlement with students of Trump U notwithstanding).

Trump could be impeached for acts (high crimes and misdemeanors) that he commits after he is sworn in, but he cannot be impeached for acts he commits while President-Elect. So, if he is going to trade on his election for personal business purposes, he is under some time pressure to do all of this seamy peddling prior to January 20, 2017.

Of course, Hamilton Electors may look at these events and realize Trump is unlikely to change once he is in office.  The electors may put an end to this temptingly unwise use of foreign policy by denying Trump the presidency. If they do, they’ll be faithful electors, faithful to their role to keep the presidency away from unqualified individuals.

If they don’t vote against Trump, it is unlikely that a Republican House, a Republican Senate, or a Republican-stacked Supreme Court would stop his use of the presidency for personal gain.

 

Photo credits:

cover photo: Protest Against Donald Trump (cropped) By Fibonacci Blue from Minnesota, USA via Wikimedia Commons

Videos via youtube.com

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About Marty Rudoy 53 Articles
Marty Rudoy has written for tv shows, major comedians and a former President (Bush I). He's a former stand-up comic working out of the IMPROV in New York and is now published by AmericanNewsX, The Huffington Post and an east coast satire site, What Exit NJ. Marty doesn't know why he's writing this in the third person but he thanks you for reading. Oh, and he's also a lawyer who frequently writes on legal and criminal justice issues.