Over the weekend, Jared Kushner was credited with negotiating a $110 billion arms deal to the Saudis, the largest arms deal in U.S. history:
The deal was finalized in part thanks to the direct involvement of Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law and senior adviser. He shocked a high-level Saudi delegation earlier this month when he personally called Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson and asked if she would cut the price of a sophisticated missile detection system, according to a source with knowledge of the call.
Pressured to finalize a massive $100-plus billion arms deal in the two weeks leading up to Trump's trip to Saudi Arabia, Kushner hoped to maneuver a discount on Lockheed's Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system during the Saudis' visit to the White House on May 1 -- a request that Hewson said she would look into at the time.
Coincidentally, the Saudis have also agreed to donate a whopping $100 million to the recently announced women's fund inspired by Jared Kushner’s wife, Ivanka Trump:
The World Bank plans to announce Sunday at an event with Ivanka Trump, the U.S. president’s daughter and senior White House adviser, that Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates have pledged $100 million collectively toward a fund for women who own or want to start businesses, according to people familiar with the announcement.
You know what would advance women in Saudi Arabia? Rights. Actual rights guaranteeing their protection and equality.
The Wall Street Journal is quick to note that Ivanka Trump doesn’t personally solicit these donations, but it can’t be helped when they magically follow her around:
Ms. Trump has made the promotion of women entrepreneurs a signature part of her focus since her father’s inauguration in January. She has advocated for issues such as paid family leave, though the issue has gained little traction in Congress. While she had proposed the idea of the World Bank fund, Ms. Trump doesn’t control it or raise money for it, one person familiar with the plans said.
A $100 million donation is quite the kick-starter for a vaguely defined fund, right? Vanity Fair questioned the fund's intent last month when it first came to light:
Others disputed that characterization. A White House official stressed to The Washington Post that while Ivanka helped inspire the idea, she will not be involved in soliciting funds. “This is not a White House fund. This is not something that she will have any authority over in any way,” the official said. The initiative was first mentioned publicly by German Chancellor Angela Merkel during the panel, though a Trump administration official credited Ivanka for raising the idea during a meeting with World Bank President Jim Yong Kim.
The donations and the White House are not tied. Definitely not. No way! It is a total coincidence the $100 million donation is being made the same weekend a $110 billion arms deal is announced. And never mind that Ivanka Trump is traveling to Saudi Arabia in her official capacity as an ‘assistant to the president of the United States.’
Let’s recall Donald Trump’s reaction when it came to the Saudis donating to the Clinton Foundation. From October 2016:
When Chris Wallace asked Clinton about reports of conflicts of interest at the foundation, she responded, "I'm thrilled to talk about the Clinton Foundation because it is a world renowned charity and I'm so proud of the work that it does."
Trump shot in that it's a "criminal enterprise."
"Saudi Arabia given $25 million, Qatar, all of these countries. You talk about women and women's rights? These are people that push gays off business, off buildings. These are people that kill women and treat women horribly and yet you take their money," Trump said. "So I'd like to ask you right now why don't you give back the money that you've taken from certain countries that treat certain groups of people so horribly?
When the fund was announced last month, the Washington Post spoke with experts who said this is dangerous territory for the Trumps:
If true, this is egregious and potentially illegal, according to multiple ethics and legal experts. “If the donation would be a quid pro quo bribe, then asking for it is certainly solicitation of a bribe, which is every bit as criminal as the bribe itself,” Harvard Law professor Laurence Tribe tells me via email. “But I started that sentence with ‘if’ because I don’t have enough facts about the donation request to opine on the ultimate bribe issue.” Nevertheless, he says:
At the very least, though, a donation is a “present,” which – if made by a foreign government or an agent of such a government or an entity controlled by it – is expressly banned by the text of the Foreign Emoluments Clause with respect to anyone holding “any Office of Profit or Trust” under the United States. Whether it counts as an “emolument” becomes irrelevant if it’s a “present,” which any donation would at least be.
Tribe explains, “Even if the First Daughter and Assistant to the President somehow manages to create formal distance between herself and that version of the Clinton Foundation, which of course her father denounced endlessly during the campaign, the hypocrisy of the move is jaw-dropping.” He adds, “Such contributions would surely constitute a financial benefit to … her brand, and her family’s brand even if she is unable to spend a penny of the contributions themselves. As such, soliciting such contributions violates at least the spirit of the Foreign Emoluments Clause.”
Even more explicitly, the Office of Government Ethics rules, former Republican ethics counsel Richard Painter tells me, “prohibit use of official position to solicit for ANY charity or other private entity.” The OGE guidelines specifically state: “Executive branch employees are subject to restrictions on the gifts that they may accept from sources outside the Government. Unless an exception applies, executive branch employees may not accept gifts that are given because of their official positions or that come from certain interested sources.” The rationale for this is obvious (except to Trump). “Even if a gift is from a person or organization that has no official dealings with the employee’s agency, accepting a gift offered because of the employee’s official position may create an appearance of using public office for private gain,” the OGE guidelines explain. “Moreover, if an employee receives a payment from an outside source in some circumstances, the public may believe that the employee is serving two masters or is distracted by outside activities.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer is touting the massive donation, which totally has nothing to do with the White House. Here’s the link to his tweet promoting the donation, but there’s a screenshot below because it seems likely the tweet will disappear in the near future. Note the preceding tweet touting the record arms deal.