Tuesday Reads: High Plains GriftersPosted: May 24, 2022
Good Day Sky Dancers!
There’s a seemingly endless discovery of shakedowns and grifts that came at the end of the Trump administration. We know many individuals carted off the people’s property like Trump himself and Mike Pompeo. Donald Trump’s emolument violations are legendary and unpunished.
We also know that Jared Kushner made endless trips to Saudi Arabia asking for his pay for how much he helped them benefit from his access to his father-in-law. Now, we know Steve Mnuchin made just as many trips and received money for his business. All this happened while the White House was planning the insurrection.
From the New York Times: “Kushner’s and Mnuchin’s Quick Pivots to Business With the Gulf. Weeks before the Trump administration ended, Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin met with future investors on official trips to the Middle East.” This revolving door usually happens after officials leave office but not these two. Under the guise of “The Abraham Fund”, these two milked their positions for all they were worth.
Shortly before the 2020 election, Trump administration officials unveiled a U.S. government-sponsored program called the Abraham Fund that they said would raise $3 billion for projects around the Middle East.
Spearheaded by President Donald J. Trump’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, the fund promised to capitalize on diplomatic agreements he had championed between Israel and some Arab states — pacts known as the Abraham Accords. Steven Mnuchin, then Treasury secretary, helped inaugurate the fund on a trip to the United Arab Emirates and Israel, hailing the accords as “a tremendous foundation for economic growth.”
It was little more than talk: With no accounts, employees, income or projects, the fund vanished when Mr. Trump left office. Yet after Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin crisscrossed the Middle East in the final months of the administration on trips that included trying to raise money for the project, each quickly launched a private fund that in some ways picked up where the Abraham Fund had ended.
Mr. Kushner and Mr. Mnuchin brought along top aides who had helped court Gulf rulers while promoting the Abraham Fund, and soon, both were back in the same royal courts asking for investments, although for purely commercial endeavors.
Within three months, Mr. Mnuchin’s new firm had circulated detailed investment plans and received $500 million commitments from the Emiratis, Kuwaitis and Qataris, according to previously unreported documents prepared by the main Saudi sovereign wealth fund, which itself soon committed $1 billion. Mr. Kushner’s new firm reached an agreement for a $2 billion investment from the Saudis six months after he left government.
A New York Times report last month revealing the Saudi investments in the Kushner and Mnuchin funds raised alarms from ethics experts and Democratic lawmakers about the appearance of potential payoffs for official acts during the Trump administration.
These were no small sums as reported by Business Insider: “Jared Kushner and Steve Mnuchin cashed in fast on their Trump-era work, raising $3.5 billion from Arab states for private funds, report says.” At least the money showed up after the Trump administration ended but the grift occurred during it.
Shortly after Trump left office, Mnuchin launched a fund, Liberty Capital, and Kushner followed soon after, launching Affinity Partners in July.
Within six months, Affinity Partners had secured a $2 billion investment from the Saudi sovereign-wealth fund, The Times reported in April.
Liberty Capital raised more than $1.5 billion from the sovereign-wealth funds of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Qatar within three months of Mnuchin leaving office, The Times reported.
Political commentators and ethics experts were concerned that the investments may be a way for the investors to gain footing with those close to Trump, should he run for and win the 2024 election. Trump has yet to declare whether he will run.
The Times reported that Kushner and Mnuchin made a string of visits to the Middle East while in office, meeting those who would ultimately invest billions in their funds.
Kushner made three trips to the Middle East shortly after the November 2020 US election, The Times said, including a January 5 meeting in Saudi Arabia with leaders of the Persian Gulf states.
On January 5, 2021, Mnuchin started his own Middle East tour, with scheduled stops to visit the heads of the sovereign-wealth funds of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Kuwait, The Times reported.
Rough way to make a living hmmm? The worst is that the policy pay-off is pretty disgusting and may include letting the Khashoggi murder slide. From MSNBC’s MaddowBlog: “Why Saudi money for Kushner, Mnuchin is drawing fresh scrutiny. Before leaving office, Jared Kushner and Steven Mnuchin engaged in official Middle Eastern travel to countries they would soon hit up for private cash.”
On the former, let’s not forget just how eager Team Trump was to cozy up to Riyadh. As we discussed last month, Trump’s first foreign trip while in office was to Saudi Arabia. When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman imprisoned other members of the royal family, Trump announced his support for the move. When the Saudis imposed a blockade on U.S. allies in Qatar, Trump endorsed this, too. When the U.S. had evidence of bin Salman approving the operation that killed Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Trump boasted that he came to the crown prince’s rescue and shielded him from consequences.
Kushner was responsible, at least in part, for helping shape the administration’s policy, making at least three trips to Saudi Arabia during his father-in-law’s first year in the White House. (Oddly enough, the actual total might be more: One of Kushner’s trips was kept private and only came to public attention after his return.)
Then, as his father-in-law’s term wound down, Kushner didn’t just prepare for life after a powerful White House role, he also made a series of additional trips to the Middle East, meeting with representatives of countries his newly formed private equity firm would soon approach for substantial financial investments.
Texas, of course, is well known for its high plains grifters. This is from CNN: “Jackson may have violated federal law by using campaign funds to pay for private dining club, report finds.” Do we need to mention that he’s a Republican?
GOP Rep. Ronny Jackson may have violated federal law by using campaign funds to pay for “unlimited access” to a private dining club in Texas, according to a review by a House advisory panel, referring the matter for further investigation.
The Office of Congressional Ethics is asking the House Committee on Ethics to launch an investigation into Jackson’s use of campaign funds after its review found “substantial reason to believe” that Jackson either converted campaign funds for personal use or expended funds that were not attributable to campaign or political purposes — a potential violation of campaign finance law and House rules.
Jackson refused to cooperate with the investigation, according to the review, but his attorney disputed the findings in a letter to the House ethics panel.
The advisory board found that Jackson’s campaign expenses “may not be legitimate,” asserting that Jackson “used campaign funds to pay for unlimited access to the Amarillo Club, a private dining club located in Amarillo, Texas.”
The review documents that Jackson’s campaign fund, Texans for Ronny Jackson, has made consistent payments to the Amarillo Club since October 2020, including dues, membership food, beverage and membership fees. Between October 2020 and September 2021, the review found that Jackson’s campaign committee made 11 monthly dues payments to the club, totaling $1,929.07.
And for some reason, someone just had to hear from Henry Kissinger’s war criminal mouth one more time. This is from the Washington Post. “Kissinger says Ukraine should concede territory to Russia to end war. ” He really puts the meat to the bones in terms of that old saying “Only the good die young.” They evidently invited him to Davos. (Sigh)
Former U.S. secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger said Monday that Ukraine should concede territory to Russia to help end the invasion, suggesting a position that a vast majority of Ukrainians are against as the war enters its fourth month.
Speaking at a conference at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Kissinger urged the United States and the West to not seek an embarrassing defeat for Russia in Ukraine, warning it could worsen Europe’s long-term stability.
After saying that Western countries should remember Russia’s importance to Europe and not get swept up “in the mood of the moment,” Kissinger also pushed for the West to force Ukraine into accepting negotiations with a “status quo ante,” which means the previous state of affairs.
“Negotiations need to begin in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome. Ideally, the dividing line should be a return to the status quo ante,” said Kissinger, 98, according to the Daily Telegraph. “Pursuing the war beyond that point would not be about the freedom of Ukraine, but a new war against Russia itself.”
There are 4 states having primaries today. Georgia will likely be the most-watched but all are important.
This is from the NPR tweet link above. Some of these candidates are real doozies.
Four states hold primary contests Tuesday, including runoff elections in Texas.
Georgia holds the political spotlight, as the endorsement power of former President Donald Trump faces its biggest test yet — and likely its largest failure — as Democrats also seek a path to flip the state’s control from a divided GOP.
Trump has endorsed a slew of Georgia candidates — including lesser-known, down-ballot races like insurance commissioner — in the state where he faces a criminal probe after a January 2021 call in which he asked Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” some 12,000 votes to overturn his 2020 election defeat.
I personally want Huckabuck defeated in Arkansas because I can’t take any more of her constant lying. Unfortunately, the Lt Governor dropped out to run for AG and her only rival is a dark horse. We’ll have to hope that the Democratic candidate can win in November.
Well, that’s today’s Journal of High Plains Grifting. I’m sure there will be more when the Jan, 6 Committee starts its hearings next month.
What’s on your reading and blogging list today?