President Donald Trump personally went out of his way to pressure a foreign head of state to grant one of the Republican party’s top mega-donors a license to open a new casino in his country, according to a new report on Monday.
Casino magnate and GOP uber-patron Sheldon Adelson has a longstanding bid to open a new multi-billion dollar development in Japan. And during Prime Minister Shinzō Abe’s visit to Mar-a-Lago in early 2017, Trump reportedly told Abe he should “strongly consider” (ProPublica’s phrasing) Adelson’s Las Vegas Sands for a license.
Citing “two people briefing on the meeting,” ProPublica reported on Wednesday that:
Abe had a meeting with Trump before boarding Air Force One for a weekend at Mar-a-Lago. The two heads of state dined with Patriots owner Bob Kraft and golfed at Trump National Jupiter Golf Club with the South African golfer Ernie Els. During a meeting at Mar-a-Lago that weekend, Trump raised Adelson’s casino bid to Abe.
Adelson, who has donated more than $50 million to Republicans in recent months, has long been pushing to expand his Las Vegas Sands corporation into Japan after that country’s legislature passed a contentious bill—backed by Abe—legalizing casinos this past July.
“Everybody says we have the leading position to win a Japanese gaming license because of my background,” Adelson explained in a conference call with industry analysts shortly after the bill was passed.
Despite Adelson’s personal proclamations, however, Japanese officials were nevertheless reportedly shocked that the president himself would intervene on his behalf. “It was totally brought up out of the blue,” one of Pro Publica’s sources explained. “They were a little incredulous that he would be so brazen.”
“Abe didn’t really respond, and said thank you for the information,” the source added. (Both the White House and the Japanese embassy declined to comment to Pro Publica on their report.)
This is hardly the first time Adelson’s personal interests and Trump’s political machinations have intertwined. In April 2017, Adelson reportedly threatened to withhold all funds to Trump-aligned groups out of frustration that the president had not yet fulfilled his promise to reloacte the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. One year later, White House officials were on hand to celebrate the embassy’s move. Seated in the front row at the inauguration event was none other than Sheldon Adelson.