The rising furor over President-elect Donald Trump’s naming of alt-right hero Stephen K. Bannon as chief strategist has devolved into a bizarre argument over whether Bannon is personally racist and anti-Semitic or “only” ran a Web site questioning the loyalty of Jewish critics and espousing the views of far-right European parties. It’s not bad enough that a high-ranking White House official praises right-wing, anti-Semitic parties, boasts of his publication’s association with white nationalists and built a campaign around the threat of globalist, international moneymen — a thinly disguised anti-Semitic trope? (Actually, Bannon’s ex-wife claims that he did object to sending his children to a school with Jewish students. Doesn’t this “count”?) House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) tells us not to worry; it’s all good. Really.
Funny how Trump and some of his closest aides who rail against globalism are enmeshed in foreign businesses. Trump, of course, is indebted to foreign banks:
Germany’s Deutsche Bank has been one of Trump’s long-time suppliers of credit. The bank provided him with hundreds of millions in loans to finance the D.C. hotel and other projects. Deutsche Bank, which does plenty of business in America, has already been hit with massive fines by U.S. regulators for various shenanigans. So what happens when a foreign bank that federal regulators oversee is a creditor to the president those regulators answer to? The same problem could play out with banks in China and other foreign countries that Trump has had dealings with.
Trump’s inner circle has gotten rich, really rich in some cases, thanks to foreign connections. A front-runner for secretary of state, Rudy Giuliani, came under scrutiny when he ran for president over his own foreign entanglements. In a disastrous “Meet the Press” interview, Giuliani squirmed and dodged as the late Tim Russert grilled him on ties to Qatar:
MR. RUSSERT: And here’s an article that was written by The Wall Street Journal. “Giuliani could face questions about his business ties if he wins his party’s nomination. The Qatar contract offers a window into the” political “potential complications. While Qatar is a U.S. ally, it has drawn scrutiny for its involvement in the U.S. effort to combat terrorism. In” ‘96, “the FBI went to Qatar to arrest al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, then under indictment in New York for a plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners. But Mr. Mohammad slipped away, apparently tipped off by an al-Qaeda sympathizer in the Qatari government, U.S. officials told the bipartisan” September 11th “commission. Mr. Mohammad went on to mastermind the September 11th, 2001 attacks.”
Salon.com asked you this question: “Are you aware that the interior minister appointed in 2001 and reappointed this year by the emir of Qatar is Abdullah al-Thani, the former minister of Islamic affairs and a strict Wahhabi Muslim who has been identified in U.S. press and government reports as a protector of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?”
MR. GIULIANI: Am I aware of it?
MR. RUSSERT: Yes.
MR. GIULIANI: I—I’m, I’m aware of it now.
MR. RUSSERT: Why would you do business with people who helped Khalid Sheikh Mohammad?
MR. GIULIANI: The reality is that Qatar is an ally of the United States. There are a significant number of American troops that are stationed in Qatar. What we did for them and do for them is security for their facilities. And this is a country that is an ally of ours in the, in the, in the Middle East to the extent that it has a very significant number of American troops stationed there.
Russert marched Giuliani through the list of shady characters with whom he and/or his law firm had done business — Hugo Chávez, a “Las Vegas developer that you worked with who had a close partnership with Hong Kong billionaire who was close to Kim Jong Il,” etc. (My colleague Josh Rogin also details Giuliani’s ties to “the Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK), a Marxist Iranian opposition group that claims to be the legitimate government of Iran and resembles a cult” — and which was classified as a terrorist group.
Perhaps Giuliani, who famously recommended Bernie Kerik for homeland security (Kerik never made it and instead was convicted for corruption) and was ensnared in allegations about misuse of public money (when he was having an affair with his then-mistress, now current wife), makes it through the nomination process. Republicans seem all too ready to roll over for the new administration. But isn’t Giuliani precisely the sort of character Trump and Bannon would rail against? Isn’t he the model for the American operator who would get rich from dealings with America’s foes?
Add in the crew of advisers who’ve made money off of Russian ties (e.g. Mike Flynn), and you begin to see a pattern among Trump and his closest advisers: While they dabble in conspiracy theories, give comfort to the alt-right and cozy up to the national-front parties in Europe (which are invariably pro-Vladimir Putin), their own portfolios are rife with shady connections and their views run counter to long-standing American interests. Maybe Hillary Clinton should have run against all that.