When Trump Told Us to Follow the Money

I want to go back into the time machine for a moment, all the way back to late September 2016. Donald Trump’s campaign rolled out a coordinated attack on Hillary Clinton in an attempt to regain its footing after a less-than-stellar couple of weeks.

COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — In an effort to go steady his campaign after this week’s shaky debate, Donald Trump on Wednesday launched a coordinated attack casting Hillary Clinton as a corrupt pawn of major donors and special interests.

The attack — rolled out in a campaign speech here, followed by a barrage of press releases and a video, all of which made heavy use of the catchphrase “follow the money” — foreshadows a “renewed focus on populist themes in battleground states,” said a person close to the campaign…

…On Wednesday, Trump picked up the theme again, telling an enthusiastic midday crowd “Everything you need to know about Hillary Clinton can be understood by this simple phrase: follow the money.”

The term “follow the money” entered the popular lexicon in 1976 thanks to William Goldman, the screenwriter of the movie All the President’s Men starring Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman as Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein. There’s a scene in the movie where Deep Throat (later revealed to be Mark Felt of the FBI) informs Woodward that he can get to bottom of the Watergate burglary if he follows the money.

It didn’t take too long for this advice to work. At the Republican Party’s Committee to Re-Elect the President, the finance chairman was Maurice Stans, the deputy finance chairman (who was Nixon’s personal attorney) was Herbert W. Kalmbach, and the finance counsel was G. Gordon Liddy. They, along with the director John Mitchell and deputy director Jeb Magruder, all wound up going to prison.

I mention this now because history seems to be coming pretty close to repeating itself. After Donald Trump was elected president, he appointed Las Vegas casino magnate Steve Wynn to be the Republican National Committee’s finance chairman. As deputies, Trump chose his personal attorney Michael Cohen and a convicted felon named Elliott Broidy. By mid-2018, they had all resigned.

The bottom fell out on Steve Wynn in January 2018 when the Wall Street Journal revealed that dozens of employees had come forward to allege “behavior that cumulatively would amount to a decades-long pattern of sexual misconduct,” including coercing people into performing sex acts with him. The ax fell on Elliott Broidy in April 2018, when it came to light that he, just like the president, had paid off a Playmate to keep quiet about an affair. Michael Cohen fell in June 2018 as investigators began to probe his role in those payoffs.

On Monday, ProPublica published an article based on their acquisition of the search warrant the FBI used to search Mr. Broidy’s Los Angeles business office last summer. It would require a short novel to explain all the ways in which Broidy intersects with various crimes and scandals. I’ll refer you back to some of my previous pieces, including: Elliott Broidy and the RNC, Michael Cohen is the Latter Day Maurice Stans, and Is This How You Drain the Swamp?

I now have to add my Roger Stone Adds Shilling for the Chinese to His List of Sins article to this list because it looks like Mr. Broidy joined Stone (as well as Steve Wynn) in taking Chinese money to lobby for the deportation of a dissident named Guo Wengui.

According to the warrant, federal authorities also sought to seize any records related to China and Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman and dissident who fled to New York, where he publicly accused the Chinese government of corruption.

The Times reported that Broidy explored plans to use his influence with the White House to force Guo out of the United States, apparently as part of an effort to curry favor with the Chinese and other foreign officials, and ultimately earn a payoff.

Here’s what Steve Wynn did while serving as RNC chairman:

Casino tycoon Steve Wynn may have played a central role in a U.S.-Chinese diplomatic episode strange enough that the Wall Street Journal wrote it was “worthy of a spy thriller.

The billionaire CEO of Wynn Resorts, who maintains substantial holdings in the Chinese region of Macau, hand-delivered a letter to President Donald Trump written by the Chinese government, the Journal reported. The letter urged the president to return Guo Wengui, a Chinese businessman who fled the country in 2014 and is now seeking asylum in the United States.

As for Roger Stone, he was just successfully sued in the Southern District of Florida for defaming Guo Wengui.

There is never just one crime with these folks, but rather a pattern of criminality that can sometimes boggle the mind. When the FBI raided Mr. Broidy’s office, they were authorized to seek any communications with Rick Gates, who was Paul Manafort’s business partner in Ukraine before becoming deputy campaign chairman for Donald Trump.  They were also authorized to look for all communications with George Nader, a pedophile who worked with Michael Flynn and Erik Prince. Mr. Nader attended a meeting in Trump Tower in August 2016 that was set up by Erik Prince where Nader acted as an emissary of “Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan of Abu Dhabi, the de facto ruler of the United Arab Emirates, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.” After the election, on Prince Mohammed bin Zayed’s behalf, Nader facilitated a January 11, 2017 meeting in the Seychelles between Erik Prince and Kirill Dmitriev, the CEO of the state-owned Russian Direct Investment Fund. The purpose was apparently to set up a backchannel between the Trump administration and the Kremlin.

It’s hard to keep track of all the crimes and potential crimes that lead back in some way to the three men that Donald Trump chose to run the finance arm of the Republican National Committee. Some are sordid, like campaign finance violations, bank and wire fraud used to cover up affairs (and, in Broidy’s case, and an alleged coerced abortion). Some involve tax evasion and corruption in the taxi industry. There’s sexual assault and abuse of employees. There are connections to the Sicilian and Russia mafias.

But there is also a pattern of taking money from foreign powers, including China, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. There’s evidence that they sought help for Trump’s election from the latter three of those countries as well as, perhaps, Israel.

It’s something more than ironic that Donald Trump attacked Hillary Clinton with the “follow the money” line made famous by Watergate.  He’s being brought down in the same way as Nixon. They both put criminals in charge of the Republican Party’s finances and then watched as they became cooperating witnesses. It turns out that Trump was right about one thing. If we look at who is in charge of the money, we can unravel almost everything.

 

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly and the main blogger at Booman Tribune.