If you ever had any doubts that Donald Trump is more concerned about the personal enrichment of himself and his family than the national security of this country, today’s decision to betray our Kurdish allies by allowing Turkey to invade the Syrian territory controlled by Kurdish forces should help scatter those uncertainties to the wind like so many tattered promises.
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Adding fuel to the fury that Trump’s unexpected and ill-considered decision has engendered — even among his most normally loyal Republican supporters — is an old tweet sent by the first daughter Ivanka Trump that has resurfaced and is now being interpreted in a new light after the president capitulated to the demands of Turkish President Recep Erdoğan to withdraw U.S. military forces that have acted as a barrier between the Turks and the Syrian Kurdish troops.
Thank you Prime Minister Erdogan for joining us yesterday to celebrate the launch of #TrumpTowers Istanbul!
— Ivanka Trump (@IvankaTrump) April 20, 2012
When Ivanka’s tweet was sent, a bid for the presidency was far in her father’s future, but the old social media post exposes the long ties between the Trump family, their business interests, and the authoritarian Turkish leader.
None of this would have likely been an issue if Trump had followed the precedent of previous presidents and divested himself of his business interests during his term of office. Instead of selling off the businesses that would create clear conflicts of interest for any president overseeing decisions that would have profound economic impacts on those businesses, Trump merely handed direct control of his family business to his sons, hardly the type of arms-length separation that would insulate him and his family from accusations of self-dealing that divestiture is designed to head off.
Trump himself was more than aware of the potential for the Trump Towers Istanbul in particular even before he was elected as a quote from a December 2015 radio interview amply proves.
“I have a little conflict of interest, because I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump said. “It’s called Trump Towers. Two towers, instead of one. Not the usual one, it’s two. And I’ve gotten to know Turkey very well.”
The Trump Towers Istanbul — like most of Trump’s more recent real estate deals — was developed with other people’s money, in this case, from Turkish billionaire Aydın Doğan, with the Trump name licensed for the project in exchange for a hefty fee. The danger of the Trump family continuing to maintain an interest in the property while their titular head sits in the White House is exemplified by the economic pressure that Erdoğan can now use as leverage to force Trump to do his bidding.
In fact, Erdoğan has already flexed that muscle once before. In June of 2016, at a time before Trump had even clinched a victory, the Turkish President was reported to demand the removal of the Trump name from the towers, saying “Trump has no tolerance for Muslims living in the US. And on top of that, they used a brand in Istanbul with his name. The ones who put that brand on their building should immediately remove it.”
Politico‘s chief Washington correspondent Ryan Lizza pointed out the insanity of allowing Trump to get away with this type of obvious financial conflict of interest.
This is why presidents divest. It is crazy that a president is making national security decisions like the one tonight when he has lucrative business relationships at stake in the country that will benefit. https://t.co/uIrT6vl2BA
— Ryan Lizza (@RyanLizza) October 7, 2019
Former CIA clandestine services officer John Sipher was blunt in his assessment of how Trump’s conflicted decision affects the standing of America among our global allies.
Well, at least the Trump Administration is consistent. We are about screwing our allies, partners and friends. Don't trust America, even if you shed blood on their behalf. If you want favors build a Trump tower. https://t.co/CkVi8Si9q3
— John Sipher (@john_sipher) October 7, 2019
Trump’s kleptocratic administration is destroying the glue that holds America’s foreign policy alliances in place. His occupancy of the White House is the biggest national security threat that the nation faces.
His unilateral decision to withdraw American protection from our Kurdish allies and leave them at the mercy of the Turks — who regard the Kurds as separatist terrorists even when they are on Syrian soil — places his own financial interests above the long-term security interests of our nation.
It’s just one more item on the long list of reasons that he needs to be removed from office immediately.
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Original reporting by David Brennan at Newsweek.