This Week in Conflicts: Trump’s Attempts to Undermine Investigations into His Presidency and an In-Depth Look at Tom Barrack


Donald Trump speaking at the 2013 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in National Harbor, Maryland. (Image Credit: Gage Skidmore)

This week, The New York Times outlines how President Donald Trump has tried to undermine investigations into his presidency, the latest episode of Trump, Inc. takes an in-depth look at Tom Barrack and Democrats launch an investigation into how White House officials handled a proposal to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

Donald Trump speaking with supporters at a campaign rally at the Phoenix Convention Center in Phoenix, Arizona. (Image Credit: Flickr user Gage Skidmore)

Intimidation by Trump

The New York Times is reporting President Trump led a “continuous, behind-the-scenes effort” to undermine investigations touching his presidency.

“His efforts included seeking to derail federal law enforcement through targeted political appointments and a public campaign to discredit the Russia investigation,” according to the article.

Some examples include:

  • President Trump asked his new Attorney General Matthew Whitaker if a perceived ally could take over the federal investigation in New York involving the president.
  • President Trump’s attacks on the Russia investigation moved beyond sending tweets and into a legal strategy.
  • White House lawyers wrote a confidential memo about misleading public statements after firing Michael Flynn.
  • President Trump believed he put an end to the Russia investigation when he fired Flynn.

According to the New York Times, “Mr. Trump’s public war on the inquiry has gone on long enough that it is no longer shocking. Mr. Trump rages almost daily to his 58 million Twitter followers that Mr. Mueller is on a ‘witch hunt’ and has adopted the language of Mafia bosses by calling those who cooperate with the special counsel ‘rats.’ His lawyer talks openly about a strategy to smear and discredit the special counsel investigation. The president’s allies in Congress and the conservative news media warn of an insidious plot inside the Justice Department and the F.B.I. to subvert a democratically elected president.”

President Trump is denying the report from the New York Times.

Who is Tom Barrack?

Trump, Inc., a podcast from WNYC Studios and ProPublica, is taking a look at Tom Barrack’s relationship with President Trump.

Barrack chaired the president’s inaugural committee that is now under investigation. He also is an old friend of the president and has “decades-long ties” to the Middle East, according to the podcast.

During the episode, the news organizations try to figure out why Barrack took the job chairing the inaugural committee when he once described the role as the “worst job in the world.” One possible explanation detailed is that Barrack supported a plan to export U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

The news organizations also reports on how “the inaugural committee was so eager to book space at Trump’s hotel in Washington that it encouraged hotel management to cancel another event — a prayer breakfast — so space would be clear for the inaugural celebration, according to a lawsuit against the committee filed by the reverend who organized the breakfast.”

Barrack did not agree to be interviewed for the podcast and his spokesman and the inaugural committee did not respond to questions from the news organizations.

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia Mohammed bin Salman, shows informational boards showing how much business the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia generates int he United States economy at their meeting in the Oval Office at the White House, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (Image Credit: Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Democrats Investigate Nuclear Tech Transfer Plan

CNBC is reporting House Democrats have launched an investigation into White House officials for ignoring warnings about how a plan to transfer nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia could “run afoul of legal and ethical rules.”

The investigation was announced by House Oversight Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings. According to CNBC, it singles out former national security advisor Michael Flynn as well as Tom Barrack, “as key players in efforts to ram through the transfer of nuclear tech to the kingdom.”

The information the investigation is based on came from whistleblowers, Cummings said.

“The whistleblowers described to the committee a bevy of potential violations of law and conflicts of interest, such as Flynn working in the White House to push a proposal to build nuclear plants in the middle east made by IP3, a private company he had advised,” CNBC reported. “The report says that one of Flynn’s aids, Derek Harvey, who directed Middle Eastern affairs for the National Security Council, stated during the first week of the Trump administration that Flynn had approved IP3’s nuclear plan, ignoring warnings that the plan must comply with the Atomic Energy Act’s requirements.”

Flynn resigned from his position as national security advisor last year and later pleaded guilty in special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

Did Interior Officials Break Ethics Rules?

According to a complaint filed by the watchdog group, Campaign Legal Center, six senior Interior Department officials violated President Trump’s ethics pledge.

“The complaint names three officials who participated in meetings with organizations they worked for or represented before joining the government,” according to Bloomberg. “Under rules issued by Trump in January 2017, administration appointees are barred from participating for two years in particular matters with former employers or clients.”

The officials named in the complaint include Assistant Secretary for Insular and International Affairs Doug Domenech and Senior Deputy for Intergovernmental and External Affairs Benjamin Cassidy.

According to Bloomberg, the complaint states the employees named participated in meetings with groups they worked for within two years of their appointments.

More conflicts of interest in the news

About this Project

Sunlight’s “Tracking Trump’s Conflicts of Interest” project provides a free, searchable database detailing President Donald J. Trump’s known business dealings and personal interests that may conflict with his public duties as President of the United States. The project also documents news coverage of these potential conflicts. Read our reporting to stay current on related news, explore our database, and learn more about the project. As we continue to learn about the First Family’s business holdings, the database will be updated. To help with those updates, get involved by contacting us here. You can also contact us if you’re familiar with any of the conflicts we’re tracking.

Lynn Walsh is an Emmy award-winning freelance journalist who has worked in investigative, data and TV journalism at the national level as well as locally in California, Ohio, Texas and Florida. She produces content focused on government accountability, public access to information and freedom of expression issues. She’s also helping to rebuild trust between newsrooms and the public through the Trusting News project.