Last week, the Trump administration dropped an Obama administration condition that Bahrain must improve its human rights record before being allowed to buy American arms. Bahrain, ranked in the bottom 20 countries in the world in Freedom House’s 2017 Freedom in the World report, continues to have a government full of what the president would call “bad hombres.”
So, why would President Trump bless the sale of 19 F-16 fighter jets to the freedom-challenged nation without any sign of improvement? Could it be…Bahrain’s moving of an event from the Ritz Carlton to the Trump International Hotel in DC just days after his election as president?
Now, we don’t know if the Bahraini event was a factor in the president’s judgment—there’s no way to know if there was a quid pro quo relationship. But the connection is clearly there, so it’s a question we have to ask. This is the situation President Trump created by refusing to sell his businesses and put his assets in a blind trust, and the reason we felt it necessary to sue him: the foreign emoluments clause of the Constitution was written so Americans would never have to worry whether their government officials were making decisions with their best interests in mind or because a foreign government paid them.
For decades, presidents have placed their assets in blind trusts or widely held mutual funds and Treasury bills to let America know they truly were acting in the interest of “America first.” Former President Jimmy Carter even gave an independent trustee the power to sell his warehouse and rent out his farm without the president’s knowledge or approval. But it’s not like President Carter’s peanut farm ever had much of an effect outside the then-230 or so residents of Plains, GA. There’s so much more at stake here.
President Trump has raised the specter of exchanging thousands of dollars in payments to his company for the right to buy billions of dollars in weapons despite a horrid human rights record. Here’s what the State Department’s latest human rights report had to say about Bahrain:
“Human rights groups reported prisoner accounts alleging security officials beat them, placed them in stress positions, humiliated them in front of other prisoners, deprived them of sleep and prayers, insulted them based on their religious beliefs, and subjected them to sexual harassment, including removal of clothing and threat of rape.”
And here’s the status of women in Bahrain:
“No government policies or laws explicitly address domestic violence. Human rights organizations alleged spousal abuse of women was widespread. According to the BCHR, 30 percent of women had experienced some form of domestic abuse. Women rarely sought legal redress for violence due to fear of social reprisal or stigma. Authorities devoted little public attention to the problem…Women faced discrimination under the law.”
Wonder what kind of “extreme vetting” President Trump did before deciding he was not concerned with their human rights record. Maybe the decision had nothing to do with who is paying to stay in his hotel. But until he takes action to no longer be in violation of the Constitution’s foreign emoluments clause, Americans will have no choice but to question each and every one of his foreign policy decisions.