One of the famous moments of the presidential campaign was back in December 2015 when Donald Trump told the Republican Jewish Coalition that he didn’t want their money, or their control. “You’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians, that’s fine.”
Those words are among Trump’s most self-satirizing; because 2-1/2 years later, the deal’s gone down. The transactional president definitely wants the money. And the RJC definitely wants control….
If you read between the lines of recent news events, it appears that this organization that works hard to push Israel’s agenda inside the GOP has become the address for fundraising and foreign policy ideas under Donald Trump. The RJC has a lot of power in this administration; and international players know it.
Indeed, the RJC, which is closely aligned to Benjamin Netanyahu, has now cropped up in special counsel Robert Mueller probe of foreign influence. Not that Mueller is targeting Israel’s role in the 2016 election campaign. No, that job falls to us, yet again.
Let’s get to the news, and focus on three members of the RJC board: Sheldon Adelson, Norman Coleman, and Elliott Broidy (who had to resign from that board last month).
Adelson is one of Trump’s biggest donors. He and Coleman pushed for two major policy moves in the Middle East that have come true in recent weeks: Trump tore up the Iran deal, and moved the embassy to Jerusalem. Trump also named Adelson favorite John Bolton national security adviser.
On May 10, Adelson rewarded Trump by giving a check for $30 million to the Republican Congressional Leadership Fund to Coleman, with House Speaker Paul Ryan standing by. That fund is trying to save Republicans in the midterm elections, an existential threat to Donald Trump.
Politico described the political flavor of that gathering in Las Vegas.
The long-sought donation was sealed last week when, according to two senior Republicans, House Speaker Paul Ryan flew to Las Vegas to meet with the billionaire at his Venetian Hotel. Also at the meeting with Adelson was his wife, Miriam…
As a federally elected official, Ryan is not permitted to solicit seven-figure political donations. When Ryan (R-Wis.) left the room, Coleman made the ask and secured the $30 million contribution…
Coleman became chair of the RJC chair right after Trump’s inauguration in 2017. The RJC is the hub, Politico reports:
Party officials have been paying Adelson their respects. In February, a number of House Republicans made their annual sojourn to Las Vegas to attend the annual retreat hosted by the Republican Jewish Coalition, an organization that Adelson helps to fund. Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) addressed the conference, and Ryan spoke by teleconference to a meeting of the group’s board.
Both Adelson and Coleman went to Jerusalem for the embassy opening two weeks ago. The MinnPost reports that Coleman once said that Trump was unqualified to be president, but he swallowed that belief, because Israel is central to his political mission. He told MinnPost that Trump is perhaps “the most pro-Israel president we’ve ever had.”
He went through a laundry list of things Trump has done to bolster Israel — and by extension, he says, the U.S. — during his year and a half in office: the withdrawal of the U.S. from UNESCO, the U.N.’s cultural organization, the withdrawal of the U.S. from the multilateral agreement to relieve sanctions on Iran in exchange for the Iranian regime stalling its pursuit of nuclear weapons, and the biggest one, the relocation of the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem.
And though Coleman and the RJC faulted Trump after his Charlottesville comments of last summer, nobody’s perfect, Coleman told the MinnPost.
Ultimately, though, Coleman says that the embassy and Iran deal moves are too important, too fundamental to Israeli and U.S. national security. “It’s not like sitting in a Poli Sci 101 policy discussion,” he said. “We’re talking about the existence of the Jewish state.”
Coleman has also done lobbying work for Israel’s new strategic partner, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. And that brings us to Broidy. Broidy is a Los Angeles financier who raised millions for Trump in 2016 who has come into the news lately for two big reasons.
First, Broidy stepped down from the RJC board and his job as deputy finance chair at the Republican National Committee last month after saying that he’d gotten a former Playboy bunny pregnant, and Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen had paid her off to the tune of $1.6 million. (There’s been speculation that Broidy is taking the fall for Trump on the affair.)
Second, and more importantly, Broidy’s former lobbying partner George Nader, a Lebanese businessman, has been cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller. And it’s been reported that Nader on behalf of the United Arab Emirates sent Broidy $2.5 million for his lobbying efforts.
AP, March 26:
who is now a witness in the U.S. special counsel investigation into foreign meddling in American politics, wired $2.5 million to the Trump fundraiser, Elliott Broidy, through a company in Canada, according to two people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. They said Nader paid the money to Broidy to bankroll an effort to persuade the U.S. to take a hard line against Qatar, a long-time American ally but now a bitter adversary of the UAE.
A month after he received the money, Broidy sponsored a conference on Qatar’s alleged ties to Islamic extremism.
Broidy had access to Trump, meeting with him twice in 2017. And Broidy was not registered as a foreign agent for the UAE. But Broidy’s central issue is Israel. Nader also is close to Israel. “He has often been accused in the Arab press of being an agent for the Mossad,” Chemi Shalev writes in Haaretz, and once worked with Benjamin Netanyahu and Ron Lauder on negotiations with Syria.
According to a New York Times story ten days ago, Nader met Donald Trump Jr. during the 2016 campaign to discuss a scheme wherein Saudi Arabia and the UAE would help Trump to get elected– and destabilize Iran into the bargain. Also at that meeting was an Israeli social media consultant, Joel Zamel, who planned “a social media manipulation effort to help elect Mr. Trump,” using former Israeli intelligence officers. Nader gained the approval of the Trump team, the Times said, and after Trump won the election, he paid Zamel $2 million.
Then last week the AP produced a story of Nader-Broidy emails showing that the men were lobbying fiercely to get a US base moved out of Qatar.
Broidy and Nader sought to get an anti-Qatar bill through Congress while obscuring the source of the money behind their influence campaign.
Their campaign ended when federal agents confronted Nader in January; but the campaign included that conference on Qatar and the Muslim Brotherhood, sponsored by a rightwing pro-Israel thinktank, that led a Republican congressman to introduce legislation targeting Qatar.
The Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a think tank that hosted the conference, said Broidy had approached it about organizing the event. Broidy bankrolled that conference and contributed to the financing of a second conference hosted on a similar theme in October by another [pro-Israel] think tank, the Hudson Institute.
Of course the investigative press is focusing on Nader and Broidy’s ties to the UAE and Saudi Arabia. But Israel played an important role in their lobbying on behalf of the Arab countries. I imagine that Nader sought Broidy out in the first place because of his Israel connections.
In one email, Broidy says that Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia and praise of Saudi efforts to counter terrorism represented a “major turning point” in US-Saudi relations– in part because it gave the Saudis “real, positive attention among all Americans, including the hawkish pro-Israel types.”
Broidy also talked up House bill to sanction anyone funding Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist party, aimed at Qatar and Iran. The Jewish community would be on board, Broidy promised.
We have received official word from AIPAC that it will support this important bill.
Broidy more than once referenced AIPAC support in his emails and bragged of planting a couple of dozen op-eds, including one co-authored by Michael Makovsky, an Israel lobbyist at the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs.
Broidy openly describes Israel as his “spiritual home” and is co-founder of an Israeli investment firm, Markstone Capital Group, that has sought to foster Israeli businesses. In 2009, Broidy pleaded guilty to paying off NY state officials so as to obtain $250 million in NY state pension fund investments with Markstone. As part of that scheme, Broidy paid for $75,000 in trips to Israel by former NY State Controller Alan Hevesi — who went to jail for the corruption.
There, too, Zionism drove the transaction. Hevesi told the Daily News in 2006, that he flew first-class to Israel because he “ran a massive pension system second only to Warren Buffett in investing in Israel. ‘It was a great investment opportunity, plus I am a Zionist,’ he said.”
Today it is not evident what foreign connections the Mueller investigation is probing beyond the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia. At least Haaretz is honest about the many Israeli connections popping up in the probe, though Chemi Shalev writes that unlike Russia, when it comes to Israel, “there is no indication or allegation of direct government involvement or of Mueller’s interest.”
That’s a distinction without a difference. Adelson, Coleman and Broidy are all well aware of the Israeli government’s interest, and have pushed it relentlessly. Adelson is very close to Netanyahu. Trump has now acted on Adelson’s instance (and two other billionaires with present or past connection to the RJC) in his staggering decisions re Jerusalem and Iran, reversing American policy. How many of his decisions have served Russia?
As to whether Mueller is interested in Israel’s influence, maybe not. But Israel’s role in our politics ought to be a scandal. Recall that one of the most startling revelations of the Mueller investigation came last December when former national security adviser Mike Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI about his dealings with the Russians– and it turned out that Flynn was working on behalf of Israel during the transition from Obama to Trump in 2016 to try and kill the UN Security Council resolution against settlements that Obama was about to abstain on. Flynn wanted Russia’s help to kill the resolution. Russia refused. The resolution went through.
Israel’s interest was clearly driving Trump’s policy-making even before he became president. And it is obvious from the Republican Jewish Coalition’s central role in the Trump administration that friends of Israel are getting great access to foreign-policy-making today.
Notice that I’ve barely mentioned the role of two Israeli private intelligence outfits with ties to the government: Joel Zamel’s Psy-Group, adept at manipulating social media. And Black Cube, the “creepy” Israeli firm that was digging up dirt on Obama officials who helped bring about the Iran deal. Black Cube got to work just days after Trump visited Israel in May 2017.