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Trump’s deal with LIV Golf is awkward for his impeachment-happy allies

During an interview on Fox Business on Thursday, House Oversight Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) soberly explained why he and his colleagues believed that President Biden should be investigated for possible impeachment.

“We know they got tens of millions of dollars from bad people in bad countries. We don’t know what exactly they did,” he said. “We fear Joe Biden is compromised.”

As we have explained, the “they” here is important. That money from “bad people in bad countries” went not to Joe Biden but his son, Hunter, and not while Joe Biden was serving as president. He’s arguing that Joe Biden might have received some payments (though, after a year of trying, he has no evidence to that effect) before he was elected in 2020 and that this may have somehow compromised his presidency.

Given the shakiness of the foundation to the Republican impeachment, the last thing they would need in this particular moment is a more robust example of a Republican former official who is not currently in public service directly and demonstrably taking a lot of money from bad foreign actors. Such an occurrence would only make more obvious how tenuous their Biden accusations are.

Enter Donald Trump.

The former president posted a triumphant announcement on social media on Friday morning.

“TRUMP NATIONAL DORAL, in Miami,” he exclaimed, “has just signed with LIV GOLF to host a Championship Tournament in April, 2024. The event they had at Doral in October was a major success!”

Trump National Doral is a golf club owned by the Trump Organization, Donald Trump’s business. A deal involving Doral, then, is a deal that benefits Trump. And LIV Golf, as you may be aware, is a challenger to the PGA Tour that is primarily funded by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF). And who is the chairman of PIF’s board? Prince Mohammed bin Salman, better known as MBS and also known as the person U.S. intelligence officials believe ordered the killing of a Washington Post columnist in 2018.

The term “bad” is certainly subjective, but you may evaluate for yourself whether this qualifies for James Comer’s angry denunciation of receiving money from “bad people” from foreign countries.

As Trump himself points out, this is not the first time that LIV Golf and his own organization have been in business together. Back in May, we explored the symbiosis between LIV Golf and Trump, with the former paying unreported sums of money to the Trump Organization — unquestionably in at least the seven figures — and Trump hyping LIV to the American public. (Soon after that, LIV Golf and the PGA Tour announced that they had reached an agreement to operate together, with a promise that “PIF will make a capital investment into the new entity to facilitate its growth and success.”)

This is just one slice of the foreign money that the Trump Organization takes in, of course. The company has properties in a number of foreign countries, not all of them particularly friendly to the United States. And if we’re expanding culpability to close family members — as Comer and his allies are forced to do to attack Joe Biden — we can mention the $2 billion given by the PIF to Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s investment company soon after Trump left the White House. That “billion” is not a typo.

There is no way in which the Trump agreements can be explained so that they seem less inculpatory than Biden’s. In the case of LIV Golf, it’s money going directly to Trump’s business. Yes, it’s not money that’s coming in the form of a check drawn directly from the Saudi government — probably — but, then, neither was the money paid to Hunter Biden: He made a deal with an energy company linked to the Chinese government. (Republicans often impugn Hunter Biden’s work by claiming that his partners having been from certain countries indicates that he’s somehow working with those countries.)

Republicans have also tried to suggest that Hunter Biden was acting nefariously by using “shell companies” to “launder” this foreign money. That “laundering” is solely rhetorical; there’s no evidence that Biden was trying to launder money in the criminal sense. As for the “shell companies,” Comer has pointed to various limited-liability companies (LLCs), most of which have obvious purposes, to imply sketchiness.

Here’s a diagram The Washington Post published in 2019 showing the corporate entities that Donald Trump identified in his financial disclosure while he served as president.

We do not know whether the money from LIV Golf will similarly filter through a variety of LLCs, but it would be surprising if they didn’t.

Again, though, the central differentiator between Trump’s LIV deal and what Republicans point to for Biden is that Trump is directly receiving some portion of this money himself — as he runs for president. There were long-standing questions during his presidency about Trump’s generous treatment of Saudi Arabia, including after the murder of Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi. Trump’s hotel in D.C. was the beneficiary of heavy spending by lots of supplicants, including some linked to the Saudi government.

Comer has been the target of criticism for months after having not only failed to apply the same scrutiny to Trump’s deals as he has those of Biden’s family but, in fact, having stopped an ongoing investigation into the former president. One would think, were U.S. politics guided by morally and intellectually consistent curiosity, that House Republicans would raise an uproar about Trump’s business agreements.

They almost certainly will not.

This post appeared first on The Washington Post

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