If you marveled at Donald Trump giving Saudi Arabia an unusually warm embrace during a foreign trip in which he flipped the middle finger to all our of usual allies, there may be a very good reason for all that affinity. It amounts to $270,000 the Saudis dropped at Trump’s Washington hotel as they lobbied against a controversial terrorism bill. The Wall Street Journal writes:
The payments—for catering, lodging and parking—were disclosed by the public relations firm MSLGroup last week in paperwork filed with the Justice Department documenting foreign lobbying work on behalf of Saudi Arabia and other clients.
As part of a lobbying effort against the bipartisan Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA, Saudi Arabia’s Washington lobbyists and consultants spent about $190,000 on lodging, $78,000 on catering, and $1,600 on parking at the Trump International Hotel. The Daily Caller website first reported on the payments.
JASTA is legislation that lets American citizens sue foreign governments for acts of terrorism, making Saudi Arabia vulnerable to lawsuits from family members of 9/11 victims. The Saudis made the payments to Trump’s hotel between Nov. 2016 and Feb. 2017, after Trump had been elected.
So when you think back on the Saudis’ red carpet treatment, Trump reveling in the sword dance, and his assertion that he wasn’t there to “lecture” about human rights, his motivations take on more of a transactional quality than a genuine shift in U.S. doctrine.