- Politics and Social Issues
Donald Trump Has No Authority to Pardon His Son-In-Law
When the world heard that billionaire Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal was arrested one would imagine that the Saudis did the right thing this time around. The raft of economic reform is redefining itself rapidly and now arguably the Saudi economy and its state institutions are in a position of empowering the kingdom with social forces that will do away with oil as a power structure to meet its obligations in the distributional relationship of its people.
Sadly, the truth is that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is a fragmented behemoth of paternalistic elites with a collective organization that not only subordinate women, but also retain material wealth as a patronage. Even with Al-Waleed in jail, the kingdom will continue its old spending ways while desperately waiting on the recovery of oil.
Saudi Arabia failed to diversify their economy quick enough. Stagnating energy prices led to economic reforms which are primarily designed to eliminate the Saudi state budget deficit caused by low oil prices, all while weaning the Saudi economy off dependence on its oil exports.
There’s no doubt the country is in a recession, with government officials recognizing an unemployment rate of 12.8%. This only means Saudis will have further trouble introducing austerity measures without the risk of a deleterious economic slowdown negatively impacting private investment. This is why the government has delayed its decision on energy prices until it finalizes the system of cash payments to the lower and middle class, a move designed to compensate citizens for the inevitable pain austerity will cause.
A government official from Riyadh stated, “There are still some discussions over who’s going to be compensated and who is not, the government has to consider the implications of higher taxes and ways to mitigate risks for both gross domestic product growth and the budget.”
Remember it was Al-Waleed that criticized the Saudi government for increasing oil supplies in order to get back some market share from American oil producers that were successful in their productivity in enhancing oil production. Even though Al-Waleed appears to be a meek and weak persona in the business world, he is very astute in his business practices when it comes to criticizing the kingdom. He was the first to ask the Royal family what exactly they were trying to accomplish by raising oil supply.
For Al-Waleed this was the cutting sword that established his business network to become the biggest shareholder of Twitter and of course many other American enterprises. This increased his assets making him a very important personality in American business as opposed to Donald Trump who accused Al-Waleed of retaining money from his dear-old father.
The similarities between the two businessmen are bewildering. Both men inherited large amounts of capital from their fathers to start their businesses and build up their stockpile of assets. However, both men are also very emotional and vulnerable to attacks on their own persona, a weakness that geopolitical leaders easily prey upon.
The Saudis recently announced that the country’s sovereign wealth fund has committed over $20 billion of investment primarily for infrastructure projects, however the majority of this investment was rationed to the United States. General Electric also announced that the Middle Eastern kingdom was investing $15 billion towards projects the company intends to carry out. These were only a handful of deals secured between American multinational companies and Saudi Arabia.
Adding to the investment was $110 billion worth of arm deals negotiated by senior officials in both nations. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, even went as far to call the CEO of defense company Lockheed Martin to slash the price of a radar system Saudi Arabia was curious about.
The business environment of Saudi Arabia is prone to corruption. Companies that wish to operate or invest in the kingdom expose themselves to this risk due to the presence of nepotism, the use of middlemen in business, and the general abuse of power. The fundamental problem lies in the overlap between the political and business climate. Yes, the Combating Bribery Law and Civil Service criminalizes these forms of corruption and bribery, however the government chooses to enforce these laws only at their own discretion. Overall, the absence of laws regulating conflict of interest and the ever-increasing presence of gifts towards officials and business leaders maintain Saudi Arabia’s poor reputation of high corruption.
Needless to say Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman feels vindicated by Trump’s praise amid the Saudi’s ongoing anti-corruption push. In fact, Trump tweeted from Tokyo showing his enthusiasm, “I have great confidence in King Salman and the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, they know exactly what they are doing, some of those they are harshly treating have been milking their countrymen for years.”
Poor Al-Waleed who has a majority stake in Twitter is now faced with an arrest warrant and the presence of Prince Salman as the super committee head. Salman now has the authority to order financial disclosures, freezing accounts and portfolios, and tracking funds’ assets and preventing the transfer of those assets. For Trump and the American people this is unfamiliar territory. In fact everyone is calling Steve Bannon a genius, as a former White House Chief Strategist, he is now using scare tactics with statements including the fact that Trump could now actually be impeached, a move that has frightened Republican voters.
For Bannon, this may become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You see Bannon, your former boss made a strategic mistake when he tweeted that it was good for the Saudis to get rid of corruption. That means Trump can not use his authority to pardon his son-in-law Jared. In fact, Trump and the Republican Party can’t even get rid of head investigator Robert Mueller. Trump can no longer convince the American public and media that this is no longer a witch hunt. Trump has at least $1.4 billion worth of assets with the Saudis, that is why he is the first miscreant President to ask the Saudis to give the IPO of Aramco Petroleum to Americans.
I’d like to thank Michael Ambrozewicz for his contribution into this article.