Turkey’s Money-Laundering Scandal Would Destroy any Normal Presidency
Halkbank isn’t a name you’re familiar with. Turkey’s President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, is very familiar.
According to the Department of Justice, in a release on October 15th, 2019, Halkbank was charged with a six-count indictment on fraud, money laundering, and sanctions offenses. It was a case involving billions of dollars to evade U.S. sanctions on Iran.
Three years prior to the Justice Department, the United States was still gathering evidence and documents for the financial crimes involved. It was in 2016 when Erdogan asked Vice President Joe Biden to dismiss the findings and drop the case altogether.
The following morning, Biden had addressed reporters:
“I suspect it’s hard for people to understand that as powerful as my country is, as powerful as Barack Obama is as president, he has no authority under our Constitution to extradite anyone. Only a federal court can do that. Nobody else can do that. If the president were to take this into his own hands, what would happen would be he would be impeached for violating the separation of powers.”
And that’s the line between Trump and virtually any other president. Obama would have been “impeached for violating the separation of powers.”
Under a Trump presidency, ignoring law and striking down cases is just another week of his version of law and order. In fact, Erdogan recruited Trump’s top administration officials into his corruption scheme.
In fact, many have declared Trump to be unfit for the presidency on his international dealings and businesses alone. Specifically, his Trump Towers in Istanbul and his long-time transaction history of business dealings with Ankara.
The conflict of interest has been apparent for some time. Secretary of Defense James Mattis resigned from his post shortly after Trump announced that the U.S. troops would be withdrawing from Syria, abandoning the Kurds to be exterminated by Erdogan’s troops.
Mattis, a retired four-star general, told The Atlantic:
“I had no choice but to leave. That’s why (my resignation) letter is in the book. I want people to understand why I couldn’t stay. I’ve been informed by four decades of experience, and I just couldn’t connect the dots anymore.”
Trump’s greenlight and silent approval toward Erdogan doesn’t end there. Geoffrey Berman, the attorney general for the southern district of New York, was pursuing the crimes that Halkbank committed diligently. When Trump asked for pushback on the pursuit, Berman was stunned. But when you look at Trump’s talks with Breitbart, it begins to make a lot more sense:
“I have a little conflict of interest because I have a major, major building in Istanbul. It’s called Trump Towers — two towers, instead of one. … And I’ve gotten to know Turkey very well. They’re amazing people. They’re incredible people. They have a strong leader.”
Trump’s attorney general, William Barr, has acted as Trump’s proxy. When Berman was ultimately fired, Justice Department officials cited his stubbornness on the Turkey case “as a key reason for his removal.”
In any other presidency, there would be waves about how this set of dealings would fundamentally undermine any foreign policy objectives. John Bolton and James Mattis resigning are both succinct proofs of Trump’s illegal proceedings. They’re evidence that anybody with a character of integrity and a true oath to the American public would have to distance themselves from Trump.
Berman was fired for doing his job. Trump fired him because he had assets and gains with Turkey that he wanted to protect. Pairing official favors with foreign policy isn’t just a disgusting conflict of interest, it’s a disqualification on a fundamental level.
And, in any other presidency, you could expect impeachment proceedings. Every other presidency except for Trump’s.