Congress Members Ask FBI to Investigate Trump-Adelson Phone Call

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U.S. President Donald Trump greets Sheldon Adelson at the Israeli American Council conference in Hollywood, Florida, December 7, 2019.
U.S. President Donald Trump greets Sheldon Adelson at the Israeli American Council conference in Hollywood, Florida, December 7, 2019. Credit: LOREN ELLIOTT/ REUTERS

Two Democratic members of Congress have officially asked the FBI to investigate a phone call between U.S. President Donald Trump and gambling billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who was the largest donor to Trump and the Republican Party in the 2016 election. 

During the phone call between Trump and Adelson, which according to news reports took place last week, Trump reportedly berated Adelson for not providing enough support to his re-election campaign. The two also discussed the coronavirus relief bill during the conversation.

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Adelson’s support for Trump in 2016 was at least partially the result of his promise to move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and to end the Iran nuclear deal.

Adelson is one of the richest people in the United States and is also the owner of the pro-Netanyahu “Israel Hayom” newspaper in Israel. 

In a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray, Democratic lawmakers Ted Lieu and Kathleen Rice asked to investigate the phone call, suggesting that it could have been a criminal act.

The representatives sent a letter to the intelligence agency on Monday alleging that “a crime may have occurred” during the conversation, because linking of legislative action to donor funds would be illegal. 

When the two men spoke, the letter said, “Mr. Adelson discussed the Coronavirus relief bill, with the president. In the same conversation, the president asked Mr. Adelson to do more to support his campaign. Depending on what exactly was said, a bribe or solicitation of a bribe may have occurred.”

Trump’s request for campaign support, the two lawmakers suggested, may have violated a law which “directly or indirectly, corruptly gives, offers or promises anything of value to a public official” with intent “to influence any official act.” 

They added that “The conversation related to an official act, which would be action related to the coronavirus relief bill. If Mr. Adelson also directly or indirectly promised anything of value to the president, or in fact makes another donation to support the president in exchange for a certain action, then that could meet the elements of bribery.”

Lieu and Rice said they were making their request “as former prosecutors” to explore whether “any crimes were committed” in the Trump-Adelson exchange. 

The lawmakers, it should be noted, did not explicitly blame Adelson of any wrongdoing, but rather asked for an investigation into the matter. 

The Nevada Independent, a news website based in Adelson’s home state, quoted a source close to Adelson describing the letter as “pure politics.” 

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