Republicans have been quick to dismiss the new report that claims Donald Trump’s businesses took over $7.8 million from foreign governments while president, including almost $200,000 from a Chinese-owned state airline as the Chinese government was lobbying the Trump administration.
Is it a big deal? Republican MSNBC political analyst Brendan Buck first called the new report from House Democrats “weak sauce.”
Buck, who served both former Republican Speakers Ryan and Boehner as well as the Republican Ways and Means Committee, called the report claiming that Donald Trump accepted more than $7.8 million in payments “from foreign states and their leaders, including some of the world’s most unsavory regimes” “weak sauce” and said he was surprised it wasn’t for more.
The report actually states in the forward that it is likely a lot more, but Republicans stopped Trump’s accounting firm from complying with subpoena.
Buck was then asked about an example from the report: In November 2016, a Chinese state-owned company, Hainan Airlines, spent $195,662.00 at Trump International over a fourteen month stay until January 1, 2018 *while* its parent company was lobbying the Trump administration to acquire U.S. companies at that time.
The report states it has documented “more than $5.5 million in spending at Trump-owned properties during former President Trump’s time in office by the government of the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.), as well as by the state-owned Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) and Hainan Airlines Holding Company, a Chinese state-owned airline.”
“People spend all kinds of crazy, stupid money to try to influence administration. Whether there was actually any quid pro quo here would be really interesting,” says @BrendanBuck on a new report alleging Donald Trump unconstitutionally profited when he was president. pic.twitter.com/BuWwWgamkK
— MSNBC Reports (@MSNBC_reports) January 4, 2024
“People spend all kinds of crazy, stupid money to try to influence administration. Whether there was actually any quid pro quo here would be really interesting,” Buck said, after expressing surprise that it wasn’t for more money while at the same time dismissing the report as not a surprise.
The report did note that it was most likely that there was a lot more money involved, but that in January 2023 Rep. James Comer (R-KY) “released” Trump’s former accounting firm from responding to the subpoena and court-supervised settlement.
“… $7.8 million is almost certainly only a fraction of Trump’s harvest of unlawful foreign state money, but this figure in itself is a scandal and a decisive spur to action,” the added.
It is true that people spend all kinds of money trying to influence politicians, and that doesn’t prove they got anything for it. But comments like that also suggest that Donald Trump is like other politicians, when indeed he is not. Donald Trump is facing 91 felony counts and has already been found guilty of fraud. Donald Trump ran his presidency like he ran his businesses, which is to say a lot like the mafia.
So it would be a surprise if Trump hadn’t operated on a quid pro quo basis. But still, his history and character isn’t evidence of wrongdoing on this specific issue.
But it is odd that Comer shut down Trump’s former accounting firm from responding if indeed there is nothing to see. Those documents would be instructive, and if Comer were doing his job with a real eye to oversight, he would be ordering the documents himself — instead of trying to prohibit their production.
Of course, even if the payments were made to get something, that wouldn’t necessarily land Trump in criminal territory. But it does warrant investigation, if for no other reason than to determine how to protect the Constitution from a president like Trump in the future.
“If there was a quid pro quo or if the payments were a gratuity for prior action, we could be in criminal territory. Big if. But enough here to warrant investigation,” legal expert Joyce Alene opined on Thursday above the MSNBC video.
D.C. Republicans are still full force protecting Trump with whataboutisms and ‘it’s not enough and if it were, it’s not a big deal,’ but in reality, there hasn’t been a president as corrupt as Donald Trump in modern times and his presidency should serve as a warning.
Just because we all know Trump is corrupt doesn’t mean newly revealed potential corruption should not be investigated. This argument is, actually, absurd on its face, as for no other criminal do we shrug and say, oh, they’ve robbed a liquor store before so this time doesn’t matter.
If everyone is supposedly equal under the law, then each and every potential violation of the law matters even for Donald Trump, and especially for candidate Donald Trump, who is seeking the highest office in the land again. It matters even more when it comes to a foreign government having influence over the U.S. President.
A Special Message From PoliticusUSA
If you are in a position to donate purely to help us keep the doors open on PoliticusUSA during what is a critical election year, please do so here.
We have been honored to be able to put your interests first for 14 years as we only answer to our readers and we will not compromise on that fundamental, core PoliticusUSA value.
Listen to Sarah on the PoliticusUSA Pod on The Daily newsletter podcast here.
Sarah has been credentialed to cover President Barack Obama, then VP Joe Biden, 2016 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and exclusively interviewed Speaker Nancy Pelosi multiple times and exclusively covered her first home appearance after the first impeachment of then President Donald Trump.
Sarah is two-time Telly award winning video producer and a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.