PROOF OF CORRUPTION

BRIBERY, IMPEACHMENT, AND PANDEMIC IN THE AGE OF TRUMP

SETH ABRAMSON

PROOF OF CORRUPTION

THE EIGHTH EXCERPT FROM PROOF OF CORRUPTION

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In November 2019, Israeli prosecutors reveal that Trump’s top ally in the Middle East, Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu, faces impending indictments for fraud, breach of trust, and bribery; in a related case, the State Prosecutor’s Office in Jerusalem announces that Netanyahu’s personal attorney will face charges of money laundering.1 The next month, Secretary of State Pompeo and Jared Kushner meet in Portugal with Netanyahu, who tells international media before the meeting—at a time when he would benefit from a distraction from his own political strife—that “Iran’s aggression is growing but its empire is tottering. And I say, ‘let’s make it totter even further.’”2

On December 27, 2019, a rocket attack on an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk kills American civilian contractor Nawres Hamid, a linguist for Valiant Integrated Services LLC. The New York Times reports that it is “not clear who was responsible for the attack.”3 The attack also wounds several U.S. soldiers and Iraqi personnel.4 According to the Times, the attack was, despite its results, routine in many respects. “Starting last fall [2019],” the Times reports, “Iranian-backed militias launched rockets at Iraqi bases that house American troops, shattering nerves more than doing much damage. So when rockets smashed into the K1 military base near Kirkuk on December 27 . . . the only surprise was the casualties.”5 Indeed, Kataib Hezbollah, the group Trump would later blame for the K1 incident, “had fired at least five other rocket attacks on bases with Americans in the previous months without deadly results.”6 The possibility that local militias such as Kataib Hezbollah haddeliberately been avoiding U.S. casualties is eventually confirmed, according to the Times, when “American intelligence officials monitoring communications between Kataib Hezbollah and . . . [the] Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps learn[ ] that the Iranians wanted to keep the pressure on the Americans [in fall 2019] but had not intended to escalate the low-level conflict. The [December 27] rockets landed in a place and at a time when American and Iraqi personnel normally were not there and it was only by unlucky chance that Mr. Hamid was killed.”7

These circumstances—and the Trump administration’s inability to definitively attach responsibility to the K1 attack—notwithstanding, within twenty-four hours of Hamid’s death Trump has both decided the attack was conducted by Kataib Hezbollah and ordered a significant retaliatory strike that hits five targets in two countries, resulting in twenty-five dead militia fighters and at least fifty more injured.8 Iran quickly decides that the death of twenty-five of its allies is “out of proportion” to the death of one American; it responds, however, not with strikes on U.S. forces but “protests outside the American Embassy in Baghdad.”9 While the protests are “violent” in tone and result in the “breach[ing] [of] the compound’s outer wall,” they cause no casualties.10 Indeed, despite Trump’s deadly, large-scale attack on Iranian assets, pro-Iranian protestors in Baghdad “[do] not enter the main [U.S.] embassy buildings” and “later with[draw] from the compound,” limiting themselves to “chanting,” “throwing rocks,” “plant[ing] militia flags,” “climb[ing] on . . . adjacent buildings,” “covering the [outer embassy] walls with graffiti,” setting several remote embassy “outbuildings” on fire, and “demanding that the United States withdraw its forces from Iraq.”11

Trump’s response to the protest—which, the Times reports, makes him anxious about a repeat of the 2012 Benghazi attacks he used to wound Hillary Clinton politically during the 2016 presidential election—is a tweet: “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”12 The Times later reveals that Trump had already “ordered more than 100 Marines to rush to Baghdad from Kuwait,” intending the fresh troops to “secure the embassy” and obey “one clear order: If protestors enter[ ] the compound, kill them.”13 That the Marines Trump sends have been cleared by the president to do extreme violence to protestors, whether armed or unarmed, rather than merely act as peacekeepers, and that Trump has spread this news to his inner circle, appears to be confirmed when Trump’s son Eric responds to the new deployment by announcing on social media, in a subsequently deleted tweet, that the United States is “[a]bout to open up a big ol’ can of whoop ass.”14 Trump’s order to kill even unarmed trespassers is—for reasons that remain unclear but may be guessed at—never followed, with a number of protestors subsequently “breaching the compound’s outer wall” without being killed.15 Instead, notes the Times, the Marines “use[ ] nonlethal weapons like tear gas to disperse protestors” and, despite Trump’s potentially illegal order, “the siege end[s] without bloodshed.”16

 

Forty-eight hours later, on January 2, after deploying an additional 750 U.S. troops to the region, Trump delivers on his tweeted “Threat” by retaliating for the protestors’ property damage with the assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani—a man the Times calls “the most important person in Iran after Ayatollah Khamenei.”17 The Trump-authorized strike also kills nine “officials from Iraqi militias,” including a popular commander named Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.18 Such an attack, say experts, would only be legal in the face of an “imminent” threat to U.S. interests; intelligence officials will later tell the Times that Trump ordered the attack despite “not hav[ing] enough concrete information to describe . . . [the Soleimani] threat as ‘imminent.’ ”19 After Secretary Pompeo alleges publicly that Soleimani was positioning himself to kill “hundreds” of Americans, intelligence officials tell the Times that “they had no specific intelligence suggesting that,” either.20

In February 2020, the reason for Soleimani’s presence in Iraq on the day of his death will be revealed by Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi: the Iranian general was carrying Iran’s response to a “Saudi offer to reduce tensions [with Iran].” It is a message that, if delivered, might have frustrated the geopolitical designs of any elements within the United States, Israel, or Saudi Arabia supporting what Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has called the “common goal” of a “war” with Iran.21

In early January, however, the Pentagon justifies the Soleimani killing by declaring that the general had been “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”22 President Trump follows this statement with the claim that his assassination of the second-most-important man in Iran was intended to “stop a war.”23 Meanwhile, media response is decidedly circumspect, with the Times writing of the January 2 operation that because Soleimani was “a commanding general of a sovereign government,” the decision to kill him was a deviation from convention. “[T]he last time the United States killed a major military leader in a foreign country,” the newspaper writes, “was during World War II, when the American military shot down the plane carrying the Japanese admiral Isoroku Yamamoto.”24 The Times concludes that Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani was consequently “the riskiest move made by the United States since the invasion of Iraq in 2003.”25

Israel’s intelligence agency, Mossad, had begun speaking publicly about killing Soleimani just weeks before Trump’s decision to do so, a fact that returns to the forefront of U.S. media when Salon reports that “Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, under indictment for criminal charges, was the first and only national leader to support Trump’s action, while claiming that Trump acted entirely on his own.”26 Netanyahu’s claim is belied, however, when the Times of Israel reveals that he was “briefed . . . ahead of time about [Trump’s] plans,” including a late December communication on the subject, a January 1 pre-assassination call between Pompeo and Netanyahu, and a cryptic January 2 tweet from Netanyahu about “very, very dramatic things” about to happen just hours before Soleimani’s killing; the Jerusalem Post adds that Netanyahu, a longtime friend of both the Trump and Kushner families, received a clear political “boost” from the killing as he faced both criminal charges and a reelection battle.27 With NPR reporting that Trump’s decision to kill Soleimani was made on December 31 at the earliest, and the Los Angeles Times reporting on January 3 that Israel had known of the coming attack for “a few days,” the likelihood that Trump coordinated with Netanyahu on a targeted international killing of uncertain legality is high.

In May 2020, additional evidence of a course of collusion between Trump and Netanyahu will emerge, as it is revealed that the Israeli business intelligence firm Psy-Group— whose work for the 2016 Trump presidential campaign was the result of an introduction arranged by former Netanyahu chief of staff George Birnbaum—has been found by the Times of Israel to have spent much of 2017 “allegedly harass[ing] pro-democracy activists in Ukraine,” specifically the very group that Trump and Giuliani had been seeking to discredit since Trump’s election: AntAC. Per the Times, “troubling questions [remain] about who a firm staffed by ex-Israeli intel officers was working for” in Kyiv; while the investigation of that question continues, it is clear that Psy-Group’s actions in Ukraine (which include the production and dissemination of fake news reports) dovetail with Trump agents’ efforts there, and that any covert intelligence activities bolstering Trump’s reelection rhetoric in the United States would be pleasing to Netanyahu as well.28

Any Trump-Netanyahu coordination on the matter of Soleimani’s January 2020 assassination notwithstanding, the killing of the Iranian general fulfills a previously articulated Israeli military objective synchronous with a geopolitical vision long supported by the Sunni leaders of Saudi Arabia and the UAE: the collapse of the Iranian regime.29 It is these same three Trump allies—Netanyahu of Israel, Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia (MBS), and Mohammed bin Zayed of the United Arab Emirates (MBZ)—with whom Pompeo speaks about Iran on December 31, 2019, the day Trump decides to kill Soleimani.30 Moreover, just ninety-six hours after the assassination, Trump meets in the Oval Office with Prince Khalid bin Salman, the Saudi vice minister of defense and a younger brother of MBS. The White House keeps the meeting off Trump’s public schedule and never provides media with any notice or readout of the conversation.31 Indeed, the secrecy of the meeting between Trump and bin Salman is so noteworthy that the White House Correspondents’ Association (WHCA) publicly decries it.32 Bin Salman later admits to passing a message from MBS to Trump, and Trump subsequently concedes that he and bin Salman discussed the Iran situation.33

Days after the Soleimani strike, the Washington Post reports that, just as Mossad had begun openly discussing assassinating Soleimani in October 2019, Pompeo—Trump’s intermediary to Netanyahu in the hours before the January 2 operation that resulted in Soleimani’s death—“ first spoke with Trump about killing Soleimani months [earlier].”34 After the attack, the Post writes, Pompeo “held back-to- back phone calls with his counterparts around the globe but . . . received a chilly reception from European allies, many of whom fear[ed] that the attack put[ ] their embassies in Iran and Iraq in jeopardy and . . . eliminated the chance to keep a lid on Iran’s nuclear program.”35

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