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  • President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump join King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
    President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump join King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia, and the President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah Al Sisi. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

    In light of the FBI’s Mar a Lago raid, a chilling scenario suggests Donald Trump may have been, or was about to funnel top secret nuclear weapons technology to Saudi Arabia.

    Trump and his family’s deep ties to Saudi Arabia–to the tune of billions of dollars in loans and investments — leave open the possibility of a quid pro quo that would have put the nation’s national security at risk.

    More questions than answers have been raised by the pre-dawn execution of the search warrant Monday (Aug. 8). The feds were targeting classified, highly classified and top secret documents housed at Trump’s Florida retreat.

    Three days later, reports claimed top secret documents relating to nuclear weapons were among the items FBI agents sought in the search, according to people familiar with the investigation quoted by The Washington Post.

    That raised even more questions. Why did Trump choose to spirit those specific documents from the White House? And who would benefit most to possess them?

    Russia seems like a possible player.

    But slammed by sanctions and caught in a debilitating war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin is in no position to help Trump solve his most immediate, pressing problem… cash flow.

    Trump’s real estate empire, especially his string of golf courses, are hemorrhaging money to the tune of millions of dollars a month.

    Plus, Trump is running up astronomical legal bills defending against investigations by the Justice Department, The New York Attorney General and the state of Georgia, not to mention multiple civil lawsuits.

    His sources of cash — refinancing bank loans and milking taxpayers for millions of dollars in expenses — were cut off after he left the White House.

    With massive debts and ongoing expenses threatening his real estate business, Trump had few places to turn outside the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to avoid a spectacular financial collapse.

    Trump’s relationships and dealings with the Saudi’s are significant because of the cauldron that is Middle East politics.

    Saudi Arabia is the second largest nation in the region and sits on the largest oil reserves in the world.

    It’s ruled by King Salman bin Abdulaziz al Saud, but his young, impetuous heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is waiting in the wings and thought to be calling the shots.

    By land area, it’s three and a half times the size of Texas. But it’s sparsely populated by 34.8 million largely Sunni Muslims, who are surrounded by hostile Shi’ite Iran and Iraq.

    The kingdom has been rivals with Iran for decades.

    They have fought a long-running proxy war in the Middle East and beyond, backing opposing sides in armed conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.

    Since 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a nine-nation coalition in an intervention in the Yemeni civil war.

    The rebelling Houthis are backed by Iran. Since the overthrow of Saddam in Iraq in 2003, a Shia majority government has also allied with the Persian nation.

    Iraq demonstrated the nation’s vulnerability in 1990 when it rolled through Kuwait and massed troops along the Saudi border. Then-Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein claimed the kingdom was historically part of his nation.

    Only U.S. intervention preserved the Saudi royal family’s rule. But the kingdom learned a hard lesson. It needed to bolster its military.

    Defense spending rose from $16.4 billion at the time of the invasion to a peak of $87 billion in 2015. In comparison, the United Kingdom spent $59.24 billion on defense, according to the World Bank.

    The Saudi’s cut spending starting in 2016, largely because it had built out its military.

    After a brief uptick it fell to $57 billion in 2020. But most of the money now is going to developing its own defense industry.

    Although Saudi Arabia is outspending Iran on defense by a two-to-one margin, the Iranian government potentially has something Saudi Arabia doesn’t… a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it.

    Ironically, Trump inadvertently ratcheted up tensions in the region in 2018, when he unilaterally withdrew the United States from the mult-nation Iran nuclear deal.

    Within a year, Iran announced it would stop complying with limits on its stockpiles of low enriched uranium and heavy water, key ingredients to produce high-grade plutonium for nuclear weapons.

    Saudi Arabia backed Trump’s decision to withdraw from the agreement in preference for tougher sanctions to deny Iran the economic means to destabilize governments in Syria and Yemen.

    But Crown Prince bin Salman made clear in a CBS News interview at the time that his kingdom would “without a doubt” develop nuclear weapons if Iran did so.

    Since then, the situation has only deteriorated. The United States still doesn’t have a nuclear agreement, and Iran is continuing to develop its nuclear program and stepping up its proxy war in Yemen.

    Saudi Arabia’s level of concern was signaled earlier this summer when reports surfaced that the kingdom has been in secret negotiations with Israel, another Iranian foe and the Middle East’s only nuclear power.

    Saudi Arabia has not formally recognized Israel since the latter’s independence in 1948.

    Iran and its ally, Hezbollah, are both Israel’s and Saudi Arabia’s largest foe. Saudi gulf allies Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates recognized Israel in 2020, largely to get the Saudis’ support against Iran.

    In contrast, Iraq recently criminalized any contact with Israel.

    Against that backdrop, bin Salman may have made the decision to begin developing the kingdom’s nuclear capabilities.

    If so, it would be starting from scratch.

    Under his father and his predecessors, the kingdom had long opposed nuclear proliferation in the region. It has no nuclear defense research facilities or the technology to develop a weapon.

    But Al Saud is now 85 and in the twilight of his rule. Heir apparent bin Salman is apparently much more ambitious and sees things differently.

    He may now be looking to jump-start the kingdom’s nuclear program.

    If that’s the case, he had to look no further than the Trump administration.

    In May 2017, Kushner’s deep involvement with Saudi Arabia included an arms deal, worth $110 billion over 10 years, sealed in time to announce it prior to Trump’s visit to the kingdom, according to The Times.

    The shopping list included planes, precision-guided bombs and a sophisticated radar system designed to shoot down ballistic missiles. Clearly, Iran was on the kingdom’s mind.

    At the time, the deal troubled government officials because the Saudis negotiated directly with Kushner and the president in a “hand-shake deal” that side-stepped traditional channels for arms negotiations.

    But things went awry for Trump when he lost the 2020 election. He was no longer able to leverage the White House and the U.S. government on behalf of his Saudi friends.

    In Nov. 2021, a year after Trump had left office, press reports revealed Kushner was trying to raise money in the Middle East for a new investment firm.

    He struck out with Qatar and the Emirati states, who questioned his business acumen, according to The Times. But, again, the wily bin Salman saw things differently.

    In 1971, the kingdom had launched The Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia.

    It’s stated purpose is to “provide financing for productive commercial projects that are strategically significant to the development of the Saudi economy.”

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    But in reality, it’s a massive slush fund — with an estimated $650 billion kitty. It not only advances the kingdom’s economic agenda, but also its political agenda.

    The fund is directed by a board, but for all practical purposes it’s controlled by bin Salman.

    During his time in the White House, Trump assiduously courted bin Salman. Trump’s son-in-law, his principal liaison in the Middle East, had become personal friends with the crown prince.

    The Washington Post reported in Feb. 2018 that officials in at least four countries – including the UAE and China – had discussed ways to manipulate Kushner, including through his business arrangements, financial difficulties and inexperience in foreign policy.

    “Kushner’s lack of government experience and his business debt were seen from the beginning of his tenure as potential points of leverage that foreign governments could use to influence him,” White House officials told the newspaper.

    Kushner was instrumental in defending the prince after U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that he had directed the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi columnist for The Washington Post.

    Kushner was also instrumental in convincing Trump to support a Saudi-led boycott of Qatar.

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    He allegedly used the boycott as a bargaining chip to leverage loans from the independent emirate to refinance his failing Manhattan skyscraper,  according to critics and news reports.

    Ultimately, six months after Trump left office, bin Salman personally approved a $2 billion investment in Kushner’s newly founded investment firm. The deal did not sit well with the sovereign fund’s advisers, according to The New York Times.

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    They questioned “the inexperience of the Kushner’s management,” and raised the possibility that the kingdom would be on the hook for “the bulk of the investment and risk.”

    What’s more, due diligence on Kushner’s  investment firm found it “unsatisfactory in all aspects.”

    Kushner was collecting an asset management fee deemed “excessive” and advisors raised concerns about “public relations risks” from Kushner’s prior role in the White House, according to The Times.

    Other documents and filings examined by The Times showed that “Kushner’s venture depends primarily on the Saudi money.”

    Kushner’s financial problems, however, were dwarfed by Trump’s. His golf courses, always a financial drain, were dead weight on his business.

    Developers had binged on golf course development during the 1980s. More than 4,000 were built in the United States, alone, during a boom in the sport.

    But an oversaturated market, combined with a decline in golfers and rounds played, triggered a shakeout. An estimated 800 golf courses went out of business in the decade before Trump’s first deal.

    In 1999, he plunged into a distressed market to buy his first golf course, the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, near his Mar a Lago estate.

    When the financial crisis hit in 2007 and 2008, he began building or scooping up properties around the world.

    By 2016, he’s spent $400 million to buy or develop 17 golf courses worldwide. At least 14 transactions were all-cash deals, amid reports he was laundering money for Russian oligarchs.

    Golf courses are a low-margin business even in the best of times. Expensive to build and expensive to maintain, they demand high fees from members to stay afloat.

    Not surprisingly Trump’s courses gushed losses. Most of  Trump’s core enterprises — from golf courses to his Washington hotel — were losing millions, if not tens of millions of dollars before and after he became president, according to The Times.

    Once he was elected in 2016, he played more golf than any other president, always on his own courses.

    His 144 presidential golf outings –his last a month before the 2020 election– cost taxpayers an estimated $141 million, all of which lined his own pockets, according to a Government Accounting Office report.

    The Trump International Hotel in Washington became a haven for foreign diplomats, lobbyists and deal makers seeking to curry influence with the administration.

    Saudi Arabian lobbyists spent $270,000 alone in a three-month period.

    The gravy train ended with Trump’s defeat in  2020. Trump retreated to Mar a Lago to plot his next move amid mounting legal and financial problems, chief among them his golf courses.

    Over nearly two decades, the properties had combined losses of $315.6 million, according to his 2000–2018 tax filings. Bankruptcy seemed the only option for some of the properties.

    An estimated $45 million of outstanding Deutsche Bank debt is also weighing on him. Trump has reportedly agreed to personally guarantee the loans, and they come due in 2024, according to Forbes.

    Once again,  however, Saudi Arabia stepped in. The kingdom’s sovereign wealth fund created and bankrolled the LIV Golf series.

    The alternative to the PGA Tour is enriching Trump in a way that avoids a direct Saudi investment to prop him up– in other words, money laundering.

    Trump’s New Jersey golf course hosted one event, and Trump will host at least one more tournament at his Miami golf course later this year.

    It unclear how much he’ll make, but the publicity from the controversial tour is likely worth millions of dollars for the Trump brand and he appears to have a role running the tournaments.

    In contrast, the PGA had steered clear of Trump for years. The former president hosted only one PGA tournament in 2018 in Florida.

    His course was substituted for a tournament at the last minute after the primary course suddenly went out of business.

    He finally got his due when the golf association agreed to host the PGA Championship at his Bedminster, New Jersey, course this year.

    But the event was summarily moved days after his supporters stormed the U.S. Capitol, officials said.

    Within hours of the move, the prestigious British Open announced they had no intention of holding their Grand Slam tournament at Trump’s course in Scotland.

    The Saudi sovereign fund surprised some observers with its decision to invest in golf in the United States, which seems outside its objective — to foster economic development in  the kingdom.

    But it signals that bin Salman is still willing to continue investing in Trump, perhaps hedging his bet on the 2024 election, or, perhaps,  for something more immediate.

    The question is, what does he expect in return from Trump?

    What would the classified and top secret documents at Trump’s Mar a Lago estate be worth to the Saudi government?

    A House investigative report, released in February 2019, revealed a whistleblowers’ concern that the Trump Administration was transferring sensitive nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia.

    That committee report charged that the Trump administration  tried “to rush the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia,” before the 2020 election.

    The effort was without congressional review and potentially violated the Atomic Energy Act’s restrictions on the export of nuclear technology.

    Now, suddenly, ultra top secret documents related to nuclear weapons turn up at Trump’s Florida estate.

    Was he trying to finish the job of transferring nuclear secrets to the desert kingdom?

    One thing is certain, Trump is reckless enough to try to cut a deal for the documents to save his teetering business empire and his precious golf courses.

    Former Trump Administration officials have testified before the January 6 Committee that the President’s behavior changed after he lost the 2020 election, according to The New Yorker magazine.

    “Warnings from White House lawyers that had previously reined Trump in were no longer effective. Whatever guardrails remained were cast aside,” the magazine reported.

    The Mar-a-Lago search warrant showed that Trump purposely concealed the documents even after they were subpoenaed last June.

    They must have been very important to him for a very specific reason.  The nation has a right to know what that reason was.

    Some of the images on this page are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.