Saturday, June 29, 2019

What did Donald Trump do today?

He cozied up to an authoritarian who ordered the murder of journalists for the second straight day.

Appearing at the G20 meetings with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Trump proclaimed that it was an "honor" to be in the presence of "a friend of mine." Trump added, "I want to just thank you on behalf of a lot of people, and I want to congratulate you."

Mohammed ordered the murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi last year, according to U.S. and foreign intelligence agencies. Khashoggi had been a vocal critic of the Saudi royal family, and in particular Mohammed, the designated heir.

Pressed on this point, Trump instead recited Mohammed's own version of events, which blames 11 Saudi citizens who are currently on trial in Saudi Arabia. In this version, Mohammed's direct military subordinates planned and carried out a "rogue operation" involving a number of Saudi government resources, but all without the knowledge of Mohammed himself. The trial is not open to the public.

Trump has defended Mohammed and the rest of the Saudi royal family over and over. He insisted that because Saudi Arabia had promised to buy $110 billion worth of military hardware, the United States was powerless to act. He also insisted that Mohammed was innocent until proven guilty, as though a Saudi crown prince would have to be tried and convicted in an American courtroom before anyone could reach any conclusions about what had actually happened.

Trump has deep financial ties to Saudi Arabia, which once rescued him from the humiliation of declaring personal bankruptcy by buying a yacht he was looking to unload. Prince Mohammed has also cultivated relationships with Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner. He was caught bragging on an intercepted call that he had Kushner "in his pocket." Kushner, like Trump a real estate heir with no experience outside of that business, has sought $100M in funding from Saudi-backed sources to keep his own private businesses afloat.

How is this a bad thing?

  • Presidents of the United States should not be financially beholden to undemocratic regimes that murder journalists.
  • A president who can't act in defense of American values, or the people under the protection of its laws, isn't fit for office.
  • The principles of the United States are not supposed to be up for sale to anyone who promises to buy enough weapons (or rent enough hotel rooms).