It’s a busy time out there. Lots going on. Donald Trump’s corruption is also
in some ways an inert story, politically, because every Republican except Mitt
Romney has already demonstrated. Ukraine , that they will not take any
actions to disincentives him from even the most overt, explicit abuses of
The money appears to go from the U.S. subsidiary of the Qatar Investment
Authority, a sovereign wealth fund, to HWA 555 Owners LLC. According to filings
Trump sent to federal ethics officials, the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust
owns 30% of HWA 555 Owners LLC. And that trust, according to documents the
Trump Organization submitted to authorities in Washington, D.C., was set up “to
hold assets for the exclusive benefit of Donald J. Trump.” Trump, in other
words, personally holds 30% of the space the Qataris are leasing.
That’s from an article by reporter Dan Alexander,
who just published a book called White House. In the course of
researching the book, Alexander found out that Qatar’s national investment fund
has been renting space in a San Francisco office building that Trump owns a
share of—555 California St.—since at least August 2018. The timing of the
rental is important: Early on in Trump’s term, his administration took
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ side in an ongoing dispute with
Qatar, accusing Qatar of supporting terrorism. But in 2018, Trump changed his
position and announced that Qatar did not infactsupport terrorism. It’s well
known that this reversal coincided with an expensive Qatari lobbying campaign
that consisted, basically, of paying Trump’s friends Alexander’s findings
suggest it also consisted of paying the president directly.
The “best” part of the story is that the office the Qataris rent from Trump
in San Francisco appears to be empty. No one works there. Alexander found this
out by way of a classic gumshoe ruse: He rented a desk in a co-working space on
the 49th floor of the building, which is accessed from the same elevator
as the QIA space on the 43rd floor. Then he went to the office, and it was
empty. There was a plant there, but it was dead.
There was a marble welcome desk but no one to welcome visitors. On top of
the counter sat a plant that looked like it had been dead for months. I rapped my knuckles on the glass doors. No one answered, even though it was the middle of the afternoon. The next day, in the morning, I returned. Again I knocked. And again no one answered.
According to Alexander, the QIA office isn’t listed on a directory in the
building’s lobby nor on the QIA’s website, which does list another office in
New York City.
The White House, Trump Organization, and Qatar Investment Authority did not
respond to Alexander’s requests to explain why Qatar appears to be paying Trump
for an empty office.