President Donald Trump spent the final presidential debate listing bogus allegations being peddled by Rupert Murdoch's media outlets against Hunter Biden regarding the latter's business in Ukraine and China. Then he ran a series of TV ads attacking the Bidens for alleged and unproved corruption, with supporting vignettes from his lawyer Rudolph Giuliani, a rotating cast of Fox personalities, and that mysterious "laptop from hell."
Trump and his bumbling Keystone Kops were forced to push the flimsy story because Republican sleuths in the Senate, after an exhaustive, costly search, weren't able to uncover any actual evidence of Hunter Biden's corruption. Shockingly, the whole conspiracy theory is a deep fake. Yet Trump reiterated his slanders against his opponent over and over again. "He's a criminal," Trump blurted out. "And the Biden family is a criminal enterprise."
Never mind that Trump was impeached over his failed efforts to frame Biden and lure the Ukrainian government into interfering with a U.S. election by threatening to withhold financial aid unless the country's top prosecutor launched an investigation in search of bogus claims of wrongdoing. Back in the real world, it was always Trump and his family; Ivanka, Jared, Eric and Donald Jr., who were the real poster children for familial corruption — masters of self-dealing who perpetrate massive conflicts of interest as they pursue foreign business deals. And those far-reaching scandals aren't likely to evaporate even when Trump finally vacates the White House.
Nobody does projection like Trump, who is now leaning on the Supreme Court to help him hide his tax returns from public review. He and his family have torn down all guardrails designed to prevent the wholesale auctioning off of the federal government.
In fact, the endemic corruption of the Trump family enterprise is why he continues to reject the election results, desperately holding out lest he be obliged to answer for his offenses. By delaying the Biden transition, he will be responsible for more death and destruction as the pandemic continues to rage unchecked.
Over four years, the evidence of historic self-dealing and graft, legal or otherwise, has piled up around the president. "From Scotland to New Jersey to Florida and beyond, Trump properties have raked in tens of millions of dollars from those seeking to curry favor with, or at least express their appreciation for, the president," the New York Times recently noted.
The quid pro quo is rampant and out in the open, as hundreds of companies, special-interest groups and foreign governments have shelled out millions at Trump's properties, while cashing in on administration policies. A visit from an entourage of Saudi Arabian officials to the Trump International Hotel in New York City in 2018 helped boost the hotel's sagging business.
There are also the allegations of mafia ties, obvious conflicts of interest galore, and Trump's dubious dealings with an overly generous Russian oligarch, who just happened to wildly overpay for a Trump property. And just before the election, the Times revealed that Trump has maintained a secret Chinese bank account.
On top of ethical conflicts is the fact that several of Trump's business partners are themselves foreign government officials who have been entrusted with prominent public functions, calling into question basic assumptions concerning conflicts of interest and improprieties. Many interpretations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) reportedly consider any monetary exchange with a foreign government official or political official to run afoul of ethics guidelines, raising major questions as to the melding of international politics and business inherent in Trump's foreign business relationships:
In the Philippines, shortly before the 2016 election President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Jose E.B. Antonio, the chairman of Century Properties Group – Trump's business partner in the Philippines – as special envoy to the United States for trade, investment, and economic affairs.
In Turkey, Mehmet Ali Yalcindag – the son-in-law of Trump's business partner Aydin Dogan – in 2018 was appointed head of the Turkish-American Business Council (TAIK), a government entity. Media reports indicate that Yalcindag was appointed to this role solely due to his relationship with Trump
In Indonesia, the Trump Organization's partner Hary Tanoesoedibjo – who is currently developing multiple Trump-branded golf courses and properties – formed a political party in 2016 called the Indonesian Unity Party and is close to other senior leadership figures.
Keep in mind that since his inauguration, the Trump children have sold off more than $100 million of the president's real estate holdings. It was heavily ironic when Don Jr. complained to Sean Hannity that if his last name were Biden, "I could go abroad, make millions off of my father's presidency. I would be a really rich guy."
That, of course, is exactly what Don Jr. has been doing for the last four years as the front man for the Trump Organization, despite the fact that Trump claimed his firm would cancel all of its pending deals and stop pursuing foreign business during Trump's presidency.
Here's what they actually did:
Weeks after Trump was inaugurated, Eric and Don Jr. jetted off to
Dubai to toast the opening of the Trump International Golf Club in Dubai, only to return to Dubai a few weeks later for their business partners daughter's wedding costing the US taxpayer at least $230,000. The Trump Organization's partner in Dubai, Hussein Sajwani, the chairman of property developer DAMAC, likewise attended Trump's 2016 inauguration. In May 2020, an Iraqi parliamentarian announced an investigation into DAMAC on corruption charges, which follow a previous legal case for corruption in Egypt from the mid-2010s. If that was not enough, the Chinese Communist party is building the new Trump World Golf Club Dubai.
Two years ago Don Jr. traveled to India, where he gave a foreign policy speech and then met with real estate brokers selling Trump-brand luxury apartments, giving the political elite in India a way to gain favor with the U.S. administration. He deliberately and lucratively blurred the lines between his role as a businessman and as the son of the president. Further blurring these lines, in July 2019 Mangal Prabhat Lodha, Chairman of the Lodha Group, the Trump Organization's business partner in India since 2013 – was appointed chairman of the Mumbai branch of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling party in India.
In the Dominican Republic, Don Jr. helped sell a piece of land in January 2018 for $3.2 million, violating his father's pledge to do no new foreign deals while in office.
The Chinese government has granted more than three dozen trademarks linked to Ivanka, a senior White House adviser. The trademarks she applied for after her father was elected got approved roughly 40 percent faster than those she requested before his 2016 campaign victory. Seven of the trademarks came in 2018 when her father was pledging to save a major Chinese telecommunications company, ZTE, from going bankrupt.
All of this questionable activity occurred after Trump refused to place his business dealings into a blind trust. Instead, he simply handed over executive duties of the Trump Organization to his sons. And then during his failed re-election campaign, he brazenly insisted on a discussion about corrupt political families.
He lost that debate. Until we know the truth about his taxes, his deals, and his family's abuse of the presidency, however, Trump's corruption is an issue America must still pursue.
Amed Khan is a philanthropist and human rights activist. He directs Paradigm Global Group, a private international investment firm.
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