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Wealthy Sheikh Spent 26 Nights in Trump Hotel, Bringing Concerns of Buying Favoritism

Protesters denounce Donald Trump outside the the Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC USA. September, 2016. (Photo: Ted Eytan)
Protesters denounce Donald Trump outside the the Trump International Hotel, Washington, DC USA. September, 2016. (Photo: Ted Eytan)

“It’s easier to meet people. Maybe indirectly to show support to Trump.”

A wealthy Iraqi sheikh who has been lobbying for regime change in Iran spent 26 days at the Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. last year, according to a June 6 report by the Washington Post. The sheikh, Nahro al-Kasnazan, reportedly sent letters to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton just four months before his stay in Trump hotel, urging them to forge closer ties with dissident groups seeking to overthrow the Iranian regime.

Kasnazan told the Post his decision to stay at the Trump hotel had nothing to do with influencing policy, but that he was in the area for medical treatment at John Hopkins hospital in Baltimore.

“We normally stay at the Hay-Adams hotel,” Kasnazan, 50, said in a recent interview with a Post reporter in Amman, Jordan. “But we just heard about this new Trump hotel in Washington, D.C. and thought it would be a good place to stay.”

The newspaper obtained the Trump hotel’s VIP Arrivals list for Kasnazan’s booking, which at 26 days was the longest listed. During his visit in D.C., the sheikh socialized with State Department Middle East experts such as Col. Abbas Dahouk, a recently retired senior military adviser at the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, who told the Post Kasnazan’s visit was about making “himself available to talk about Iraq and speak truth to power.”

“It’s easier to meet people” at the hotel, said Dahouk. “Maybe indirectly to show support to Trump.”

“We saw all the Trumpers,” Entifadh Qanbar, a Kasnazan spokesman and aide who was frequently with him at the hotel, told the Post. “Many ambassadors, many important people. We didn’t talk to them, but we saw them in the hallways.” Qanbar told the Post the room cost a “couple thousand” dollars per night.

The Post notes the Iraqi sheikh lives in a “gold-bedecked mansion and summons his servants by walkie-talkie,” in Amman, Jordan. Kasnazan lives in exile, as he and his brother, who served as Iraq’s former trade minister, both face corruption charges. Kasnazan’s brother, Milas Mohammed Abdul Karim, was convicted to spend seven years in prison in absentia for corruption a day before Kasnazan’s stay in the Trump hotel. A spokesman for Iraq’s judiciary said both brothers would be arrested if they returned to their home country.

Kasnazan was imprisoned under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein before the 2003 Iraq War, where the sheikh used his logistical network to help U.S. intelligence officials. According to journalist Bob Woodward’s 2004 book, Plan of Attack, Kasnazan and his brother were so useful to CIA intelligence efforts the organization gave them the code name ROCKSTARS. Kaznasan told the Post the CIA paid him more than $1 million a month for his services.

Iran gained substantial influence in Iraq in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion, and Kasnazan seeks to leverage U.S. support to counter their political power in his home country. The sheikh argues corruption charges against him and his brother are politically motivated, and the Post notes his ambition to become president of Iraq.

Kasnazan showed the Washington Post’s journalists letters he wrote to the Trump administration, where he praised the president’s hardline policy toward Iran and wrote of his desire “to achieve our mutual interest to weaken the Iranian Mullahs regime and end its hegemony.”

More Political and Business Residents at Trump Hotel

The Washington Post’s report reflects ongoing criticism of the president for profiting from influence-seeking customers while he is in the White House. Some of the most brazen examples include lobbyists from the Saudi government paying for 500 nights at the luxury hotel three months after the 2016 election, and T-Mobile spent $195,000 there while lobbying for a merger with Sprint. A new report by OpenSecrets’ Anna Massoglia and Karl-Evers Hillstrom finds the president has ongoing business interests in more than 30 countries.

“Two years into his presidency, Donald Trump continues to make money from properties and licensing deals in nearly two dozen countries around the world, fanning the flames of concerns that the Trump administration is subject to unprecedented levels of foreign influence.

“Trump continued to hold more than $130 million in foreign assets in a revocable trust as his second year in office came to a close, according to OpenSecrets’ analysis of the president’s most recent annual personal financial disclosure released by the Office of Government Ethics last month.”

The Trump Organization is facing two lawsuits, one of which Democratic members of Congress filed for conducting business with foreign states while Trump is in the White House. The lawsuits cite the Constitution’s emoluments clause, which prohibits members of the U.S. government from receiving gifts from foreign countries without congressional permission.

 

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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