'Are You The Veterans That Are Getting Bribed' By The Saudis, At The Trump Hotel?
It's good to have friends in dry places. Like if your hotel in New York is having a bad quarter, sometimes your buddy Mohammed from the desert will sweep in and book a whole block of rooms for his underlings -- MBS isn't staying at a Trump garbage palace, LOL -- and KA-CHING, you're in the black for the first time in ages.
But you can't have the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince here all the time. The guy does have a tendency to wild out with the bone saw, and then you wind up with the liberal media crawling all over you. Sometimes you need a more sustaining boost to the bottom line without all the publicity that comes from having a murderous despot in residence. Never fear, because Mohammed has a plan to bring the mountain to you!
The Post's David Fahrenthold reports,
Lobbyists representing the Saudi government reserved blocks of rooms at President Trump's Washington, D.C., hotel within a month of Trump's election in 2016 — paying for an estimated 500 nights at the luxury hotel in just three months, according to organizers of the trips and documents obtained by The Washington Post.
At the time, these lobbyists were reserving large numbers of D.C.-area hotel rooms as part of an unorthodox campaign that offered U.S. military veterans a free trip to Washington — then sent them to Capitol Hill to lobby against a law the Saudis opposed, according to veterans and organizers.
In 2016, Congress overrode Obama to pass the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (JASTA), allowing Americans to sue foreign governments who sponsor terrorists. And the Saudis have one or fifteen reasons to fear that they might wind up getting sued in US courts for letting guys like Osama bin Laden recruit in their kingdom. So they came up with A PLAN.
"Welcome Home Brother!" wrote Jason E. Johns, an Army veteran and Wisconsin lobbyist, to several veterans in December 2016, according to identical emails two veterans shared with The Post. Johns invited the veterans, whom he did not know personally, on a trip to "storm the Hill" to lobby against the law.
"Lodging at the Trump International Hotel, all expense paid," Johns wrote in the emails. Johns's email signature said he was with "N.M.L.B. Veterans Advocacy Group," which is Johns's law firm in Madison, Wis.
SUBTLE. Saudi lobbyists put up groups of veterans, handed them talking points that said American troops would be endangered by allowing victims of terrorism to sue the Saudi government, and dispatched them in waves to convince Congress to kill the law. And they did it badly.
"The fourth time I saw Grassley's guy, he was like, 'Hey, what [else] is going on?' We didn't even talk about the bill," said Robert Suesakul, an Army veteran from Iowa, about his fourth visit to the office of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa). It had been clear after the first trip that Grassley wasn't interested in amending the bill. "It didn't make sense hitting these guys a fourth time."
Worse still, the veterans didn't even grok that they were a prop for a foreign government until one of the organizers got wasted at a reception and toasted the real host, saying, "Thank you, Saudi prince!" But if the veterans didn't know who was picking up the tab, they were about the only ones in DC in the dark.
Another problem: In some cases, congressional staffers confronted them because they knew who was funding these trips.
Even if the veterans did not.
"We'd walk in there, and they'd go, 'Are you the veterans that are getting bribed?' " Suesakul said.
So color us skeptical when Michael Gibson, who booked $270,000 of rooms for Saudi lobbying front Qorvis/MSLGroup, insists that he just picked the Trump Hotel because it was cheap.
And "I just out of the blue decided, 'Why not call the Trump hotel?' " he said. "I said I was representing a client, a group of veterans . . . Did they offer any discounts for veterans? And they said yes, they did have availability." They also offered a lower rate, he said.
After that trip, Gibson said, Qorvis asked him to schedule more trips for 2017. It didn't tell him to go back to the Trump hotel. But the first trip had gone well. So he did.
And maybe the receptionist at the Trump Hotel was unaware, but there's no damn way that DJ and his dumbass brother didn't know exactly who was footing the bill.
Gibson said he never told any Trump hotel staff that the Saudis were paying: "I did all this on my corporate credit card for my client, who was Qorvis, and said I was bringing a group of veterans to work on legislation."
Yeah, okay buddy. Have fun 'splaining that to the attorneys general from Maryland and DC who just dropped subpoenas on Trumpland in their Emoluments Clause litigation involving the very government-owned hotel where you parked all those unsuspecting vets. Fun Fact: Destroying emails in anticipation of litigation is illegal, and stupidity is no defense.
Follow your FDF on Twitter!
Please click here to fund your Wonkette, who will NOT be spending any junkets at the Trump Hotel, thankyouverymuch!
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.