Saudi Lobbyists Used U.S. Veterans As Pawns In Trump Hotel Scam

The United States Constitution is of course not perfect.

It’s full of anachronisms, elitism, and, yes, even racism.

Just look at the “three-fifths” clause contained in Article I, section two, for example.

Look at Article II, section one explaining the electoral college.

And if only more knew about how the Second Amendment got in there…

But within that sacrosanct founding document, there are also testaments to its framers’ sagacity and circumspection.

Some might argue the Constitution‘s emoluments clause, a provision to prevent foreign governments’ bribery of federal officials, is hyperbolic.

James Madison et al., however, had enough foresight to imagine a future President of the United States succumbing to a foreign government’s graft in an attempt to curry undue favor.

That prediction, as we know, came to fruition on January 20, 2017 with the inauguration of Donald J. Trump.

By now it’s no surprise Trump retains ownership of his company as president despite insisting before being elected he was transferring business assets to a blind trust his sons Eric and Donald Jr. would manage to avoid potential conflicts of interests.

That was one of thousands of lies Trump would go on to tell.

Days before an October 2018 New York Times investigation revealed the so-called “self-made billionaire” future president received at least $413 million through his father’s real estate empire and evading tax authorities, a Washington, D.C. federal district judge decided that nearly 200 Democratic senators and representatives had legal standing to sue Trump over violations to the emoluments clause.

This was the second time a federal judge allowed such an action to proceed, the first coming the previous April when U.S. District Judge Peter Messitte approved District of Columbia attorney Karl A. Racine and Maryland attorney general Brian E. Frosh’s lawsuit against Trump’s emoluments clause violations.

Then there was the perfidy surrounding the Trumps’ “charitable organization,” the Trump Foundation, which led to then-New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood filing a civil lawsuit.

This led directly to New York judge Saliann Scarpulla shutting down the Trump Foundation at the end of last year.

As the Trumps were saying good-bye to their precious charity, though, another layer was unfolding.

As David Fahrenthold Jonathan O’Connell reported in The Washington Post on December 5, 2018, lobbyists representing the Saudi Arabian government reserved 500 rooms at Trump’s D.C. hotel within a month of the 2016 presidential election, for which they paid more than $270,000.

But the rooms weren’t for them.

They were for six groups of U.S. military veterans sent to Washington to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed.

Some–perhaps all–of those veterans had no idea that was the case.

Henry Garcia, a San Antonio Navy veteran said:

“It made all the sense in the world when we found out that the Saudis had paid for it.”

Garcia claimed to have been tipped off after being told other veterans organized the trip but was then treated to private hotel rooms, open bars, and free dinners, expenditures no other veterans’ group he was aware of paid for.

Garcia then concluded:

“We were just used to give Trump money.”

According to lobbying disclosure forms, the Washington-based firm Qorvis/MSLGroup that  has long represented the Saudi government in the United States paid the “veterans fly-in” trips organizers.

This sheds a little light on why the Trump administration has such a cozy relationship with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The United States’ participation in the Saudi Arabia-led intervention in the Syrian civil war has implicated itself in the starvation of 14 million people who have been suffering since the Saudi-led war in Yemen escalated in 2015.

Then there was the brutal death and dismemberment of Saudi journalist and American resident Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey on October 2, for which Donald Trump defended Saudi Arabia.

Using veterans for his own political and economic interests is nothing new to Trump.

Using the country as his personal ATM is something we should never accept.

That’s why we have the emoluments clause.

Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

Ted Millar is writer and teacher. His work has been featured in myriad literary journals, including Better Than Starbucks, The Broke Bohemian, Straight Forward Poetry, Caesura, Circle Show, Cactus Heart, Third Wednesday, and The Voices Project. He is also a contributor to The Left Place blog on Substack, and Medium.