Milbank: My foolproof plan to put President Trump in Amazon's pocket
WASHINGTON — President Trump had a brilliant idea over the weekend.
It came during his otherwise zany Twitter attack on Amazon over the past five days, about Amazon not paying taxes (it does), causing the Postal Service to lose money (it's perfectly adept at losing money on its own) and supposedly controlling The Washington Post because Amazon founder Jeffrey P. Bezos owns the paper (so why don't I get a discount at Whole Foods?).
But in between was a nugget about "the Fake Washington Post, which is used as a 'lobbyist' and should so REGISTER." It was an intriguing proposal, and I am prepared to take Trump up on it. I hereby offer myself to Amazon as a lobbyist. What's more, I have a foolproof plan to put the entire Trump administration in Amazon's pocket for a bargain basement price of $242.7 million — guaranteed!
Paying to play is a hoary tradition in Washington, but the Trump administration has created a veritable tag sale. Foreign governments and corporations alike have discovered that owning this administration is surprisingly affordable. You just have to know where the deals are.
And so I called the man who knows: Norman Eisen, who served as the Obama White House ethics lawyer and now is chairman of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington. Together, we prepared this Itemized Proposal to Purchase the Trump Administration for Amazon at a Cheap Price.
To win Trump's favor, we must boost his businesses. As Amazon's new lobbyist, I would immediately locate my office and residence at the Trump International Hotel in Washington. The Saudis reportedly spent $268,000 at the hotel. We would spend $2,680,000 — just to turn heads.
I would pay another $2 million a year for office space in the Trump Tower in New York — the same amount paid by China's largest bank, according to Forbes magazine, part of $175 million a year that commercial tenants pay the president. I would buy memberships at Mar-a-Lago and Trump National Golf Club (more than $300,000 combined).
Finally, I would also devote $54 million to subsidize Trump's real estate business, using the method of a Russian oligarch who bought a mansion from Trump for a generous $95 million just a few years after Trump bought it for $41 million.
Trump's re-election campaign is already running, so I would cover the basics: maxing out with $2,700 to the Trump campaign, $39,900 for the Republican National Committee and $101,700 to other party committees. I'll start Trump's super PAC, America First Action, with $10 million and throw an "anonymous" $3 million into a legal defense fund for Trump officials — a practice Trump's ethics agency approved.
Acquisition of former Trump advisers: $2,500,000
I will sign a hefty lobbying contract with Ballard Partners, run by top Trump fundraiser Brian Ballard, also a regional vice chair of the Republican National Committee. But I had better hurry: Ballard's firm wasn't even in Washington in 2016, but last year it had $10 million in lobbying revenue.
Acquisition of Trump influencer: $50 million
Eisen proposes that I acquire a first-class agent of influence such as Elliott Broidy, a top Trump fundraiser and deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee. The New York Times and others reported recently that Broidy pushed the White House to remove Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and to take a more confrontational approach to Iran and Qatar. According to the Times, Broidy had been "tempted" by some $200 million in contracts offered by the United Arab Emirates for his private security business.
Loans to Jared Kushner: $92,000,000
Foreign governments have seen the president's son-in-law as a way to gain leverage over national policy. Apollo Global Management's founder met with Kushner to discuss infrastructure policy, then reportedly lent Kushner's family real estate business $184 million. I'll try this, too.
Acquisition of Cabinet officer: $900,000 (cheap!)
A lobbyist let EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt use a Capitol Hill condo worth about $5,000 a month for $50 a night, charging him only for those nights he used. I'd offer lodging and office furniture to Cabinet officers, and private jet travel for them and their families to vacation destinations, honeymoons and political trips — and I wouldn't even hit $1 million.
Legal fees: $25,000,000
The only downside with my proposal is that many of those who get involved this way with Trump wind up in legal trouble. So I will need $25 million to retain a criminal-defense lawyer and to cover the expenses of my family during my prison time. To reduce costs, I would temporarily move my family out of the Trump International Hotel during my sentence.