The Mahablog

Politics. Society. Group Therapy.

The Mahablog

Lamar Johnson Is Free

I’ve written about Lamar Johnson in the past; here and here. Johnson was convicted of murder in 1995 on outrageously fabricated evidence. But even after two other men confessed to the murder Johnson couldn’t get a new hearing in Missouri. St. Louis prosecutor Kimberly Gardner had to fight with the state for the past few years before finally getting a hearing in December 2022. Today, the conviction was overturned, and Lamar Johnson was freed.

The Trump-Kushner-Saudi Connection

The Washington Post has a long article by Michael Kranish about the business dealings between Trump and Jared Kushner and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (no paywall).

The substantial investments by the Saudis in enterprises that benefited both men came after they cultivated close ties with Mohammed while Trump was in office — helping the crown prince’s standing by scheduling Trump’s first presidential trip to Saudi Arabia, backing him amid numerous international crises and meeting with him repeatedly in D.C. and the kingdom, including on a final trip Kushner took to Saudi Arabia on the eve of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack.

New details about their relationship have emerged in recently published memoirs, as well as accounts in congressional testimony and interviews by The Post with former senior White House officials.Those revelations include Kushner’s writtenaccount of persuading Trumpto prioritize Saudi Arabia over the objections of top advisers and a former secretary of state’s assertion in a book that Trump believed the prince “owed” him.

They also underscore the crucial nature of Trump’s admission that he “saved” Mohammed in the wake of the CIA’s finding that the crown prince ordered the killing or capture of Post contributing opinion columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Did Trump and his son-in-law use the office of the presidency to enrich themselves vis-à-vis MBS? Hell, yes they did. We probably don’t yet know the full extent of it.

Now, with Trump running for president again, some national security experts and two former White House officials say they have concerns that Trump and Kushner used their offices to set themselves up to profit from their relationship with the Saudis after the administration ended.

“I think it was an obvious opportunity for them to build their Rolodexes,” John Bolton, who was Trump’s national security adviser, said in an interview. “And I think they were probably hard at work at it, particularly Jared.”

“Why should Jared be worried about the Middle East?” Bolton said. “It’s a perfectly logical inference was that had something to do with business.”

At CNN, Dean Obeidallah points to the House Congressional committee investigating Hunter Biden and his laptop. This is chaired by James Comer (R-KY).

Comer, a Kentucky Republican, alleged in a letter last week to Hunter Biden that he and his associates “peddled influence to generate millions of dollars for the Biden family.” He declared in his committee’s press release touting the investigation, “The American people deserve transparency and accountability about the Biden family’s influence peddling.”

If Comer is sincere about transparency and accountability when it comes to influence peddling in politics, then he should be readying similar letters to Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump. All three may have personally profited from their time in the White House.

It may very well be that Hunter Biden is guilty of trading on his relationship with his father to make money. But Hunter Biden has never had a position in the U.S. government, and so far nobody has come up with a connection to Joe Biden. I’m fine with the criminal justice system investigating Hunter Biden, and if someone does learn that Joe Biden somehow inappropriately used U.S. government resources to help his son, then let’s hear about it. But until such a connection is found, this isn’t the business of a congressional committee.

The Trumps (including Jared Kushner), on the other hand, were operatives of the Trump administration and supposedly on U.S. government business when they were cultivating the Saudis to make money. That’s a whole different thing. Back to CNN:

Now we see Trump hosting Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournaments at his golf courses — which typically pay the course owner in the case of PGA events $2 million to $3 million, as the Post reported. However, Trump has not revealed how much he’s pocketing from the Saudis — which is especially alarming given he is running for President in 2024.

The Trump Organization also has recently secured an agreement with a Saudi real estate company that plans to build a Trump-branded hotel, villas and golf course in Oman as part of a $4 billion project, according to The New York Times.

Then there’s Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who was also a White House adviser. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, a watchdog group, urged the Justice Department to investigate her four years ago over potentially violating conflict of interest laws by participating in the implementation of a program giving tax breaks for investors in so-called opportunity zones. (A spokesperson for Trump’s ethics attorney called the claim “politically motivated and meritless.”)

CREW also had raised concerns over Ivanka Trump’s business receiving “registration” approval for trademarks from the Chinese government in 2018 around the time that her father lifted sanctions on Chinese telecommunications company ZTE — whose controlling shareholder is a Chinese state-owned corporation.

None of this is news to most of you, I bet. All of this and more was reported in most major newspapers at the time. But it wasn’t endlessly harped on by bobbleheads on television news, so most Americans probably never heard about it. Well, they need to hear about it now. You want whataboutism, television news media? How about for every minute covering Hunter Biden investigations you give equal time to what Trump and Kushner did. I’m still not seeing anywhere close to equal time, mostly because the Democrats aren’t pushing the Kushner-Trump-MBS story as much as the Republicans are pushing the Hunter Biden story. But from now on James Comer shouldn’t be allowed to so much as walk his dog without reporters asking him when he’s going to hold hearings on the Trumps.