Shortly after taking office, President Donald Trump tried to enlist then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in his effort to eliminate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), a law aimed at preventing U.S. entities from engaging in corrupt acts to gain preferential treatment from foreign governments, according to a new book from Pulitzer Prize winning Washington Post reporters Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig.
“It’s just so unfair that American companies aren’t allowed to pay bribes to get business overseas,” Trump reportedly said. “We’re going to change that.”
Trump disapproved of the regulation, it was claimed, because “it restricted his industry buddies or his own company’s executives from paying off foreign governments in faraway lands.”
Enacted in the immediate aftermath of Watergate, the FCPA prohibits domestic. businesses from bribing foreign officials and foreign businesses from bribing U.S. officials. Upon signing the bill into law in 1977, President Jimmy Carter said such transactions “undermine the integrity and stability of governments.”
President Trump, on the other hand, criticized the FCPA in 2012 as a “horrible law” that put the U.S. at a “huge disadvantage” against foreign competitors. Since taking office, Trump has stymied enforcement of the FCPA through myriad administrative and bureaucratic efforts.
For example, he and GOP lawmakers killed a 2010 rule that required oil, gas and mining companies listed on U.S. stock exchanges to disclose how much they pay to foreign governments, and later appointed openly anti-FCPA Wall Street attorney Walter “Jay” Clayton to head up the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the agency responsible for enforcing the FCPA.
But in a truly Trumpian twist, the president and his supporters’ recent attacks on former Vice President Joe Biden focus in large part on unsubstantiated allegations that Biden violated the FCPA by attempting to stop an investigation into the Ukrainian gas company Burisma, on which his son Hunter Biden was a board member.
“No reasonable person who actually looks at the evidence believes that this wasn’t a quid pro quo that may well have been designed just to benefit Hunter Biden, which would make it a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act,” attorney and Trump defender Gregg Jarrett said on Fox News in November 2019.
Also back in November, Fox News host Sean Hannity asked on Twitter, “Did [Joe Biden] break any laws?”
He then referred to Gregg Jarrett’s opinions on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and explained, at length, what that law says.
Then he called for an investigation.
Arizona Republican Rep. Paul Gosar, who recently made headlines for posting a fake photo of Barack Obama on social media, called for Biden to be investigated for violating the FCPA in September.
“It appears, based on former Vice President Biden’s admission captured on video, that he used his official office as Vice President to coerce a foreign nation to take action that would personally financially benefit the Vice President’s son. This is the definition of a corrupt practice,” Gosar said in a statement after reading the White House memo of the Trump-Volodymyr Zelensky phone call.
It should be noted that Biden’s efforts to oust the then-Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin was a specific facet of bipartisan U.S. foreign policy to oust corrupt officials in the nation, and was supported by many Western nations.
The book, A Very Stable Genius: Donald J. Trump’s Testing of America, will be available nationwide next week.
[image via Joe Raedle_Getty Images]
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