Trump Tête-à-Tête With Big Oil Draws Investigators' Notice

His request for $1B for campaign raises 'potential ethical, campaign finance, and legal issues'
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted May 15, 2024 7:46 AM CDT
Investigators Dig Into Trump's $1B Ask of Big Oil
Former President Donald Trump prepares to talk to reporters outside the courtroom at the end of the day of his trial at Manhattan criminal court, Tuesday, May 14, 2024, in New York.   (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP)

Ethics investigators are very interested in Donald Trump's alleged offer to erase environmental policies in exchange for a $1 billion campaign donation from Big Oil—which some are calling "a blatant quid pro quo." Ethics watchdog Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) says it's "taking a very serious look at whether Trump's fundraising pitch to the oil executives ... would merit some further action," chief ethics counsel Virginia Canter tells the Guardian. "This was a very focused small group directed at a particular industry, there was an amount put out there of $1 billion, which he described as a deal, which all raises questions about the transactional nature of the meeting."

The House Oversight Committee is also investigating the April dinner at Mar-a-Lago, where Trump is said to have hosted more than 20 oil and gas company executives. Democrats on the committee requested more details of nine executives in attendance on Monday, alleging "significant potential ethical, campaign finance, and legal issues," per the Guardian. The Senate Budget Committee is also considering an investigation. Its chair, Democrat Sheldon Whitehouse, says "Trump's offer of a blatant quid pro quo to oil executives is practically an invitation to ask questions about Big Oil's political corruption and manipulation." He adds he wants to investigate "to ensure the industry cannot simply buy off politicians."

What is concerning "is a candidate essentially saying, 'My policy positions are for sale. My acts in office are for sale. And here's what it would cost you to buy my actions,'" Jordan Libowitz, CREW's vice president for communications, tells MSNBC. University of Virginia Law School Professor Deborah Hellman notes that for Trump to be found guilty of bribery, he would have had to tie his fossil fuel plans to the requested donation. "For him to say, 'I'm doing it because you're giving me the money', is a quid pro quo, but to say, 'I'm going to do it, so you should want me to get elected', is not," Hellman tells the Guardian. Trump reportedly said a $1 billion donation would be a "deal" for the companies because of the costs they would avoid under his presidency. (There are also reports of Big Oil drawing up executive orders.)

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