Donald Trump Lobbied Japan's Prime Minister to Allow His Biggest Donor to Build a Casino There: Report

President Donald Trump lobbied Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to allow one of his biggest campaign donors, Sheldon Adelson, to build a casino in Japan, according to a new report by ProPublica.

In February 2017, Abe met with Trump for the first time at the White House. The two discussed the possibility of a bilateral trade agreement and the United States’ mutual defense treaty with Japan. Trump described having a “very, very good bond” with the Japanese leader.

That same night, Trump had dinner with Adelson, owner of the company Las Vegas Sands and one of the president’s top donors. Adelson donated $20 million to Trump’s 2016 campaign and chipped in an extra $5 million for the inaugural ceremony. The two were joined by the president’s senior adviser and son-in-law Jared Kushner and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

The following day, Adelson went to an event where he talked with Abe about casinos. After years of debate, Japan finally decided to legalize casinos, opening a new market that experts say could be worth $25 billion per year.

After Adelson talked to Abe, Trump invited the prime minister to his Florida golf resort Mar-a-Lago. It was that weekend where the president suggest the Japanese government allow Adelson’s company to build a casino, according to the report by ProPublica published Wednesday.

trump shinzo abe President Donald Trump speaks during a bilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe (L), September 26, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York. According to a new report by ProPublica, Trump lobbied the Japanese leader on behalf of one of his top campaign donors, Sheldon Adelson. Nicholas Kamm /AFP/Getty Images

One of the people briefed on the exchange between Trump and Abe said that the Japanese officials were surprised that the president was so “brazen” in his request that the foreign government support his top campaign donor.

According to that source, Abe thanked the president for the information but did not comment further.

Other than Adelson, Trump told Abe about at least one other casino. Though accounts diverge on whether the president suggested MGM or Wynn Resorts, the latter is run by former Republican National Committee finance chairman Steve Wynn. Nikkei, a Japanese newspaper, reported at the time that Trump told Abe about MGM.

In a statement to ProPublica, a spokesperson for Adelson’s company said that the “gaming industry has long sought the opportunity to enter the Japanese market” and that Las Vegas Sands has spent “significant resources” on the effort to break into that market.

The White House and the Japanese Embassy in D.C. declined to comment on the story.

Adelson is currently facing a lawsuit filed by the National Jewish Democratic Council. The organization accuses Adelson of participating in “legal sadism” after the billionaire spent five years suing them for defamation. The court eventually tossed Adelson’s claim, but the council said it never recovered.

Adelson, along with his wife, have become the biggest contributors to Republican candidates this midterm election cycle. According to a recent report from The New York Times, the Adelsons have spent over $50 million on organizations dedicated to helping the GOP keep control of both the House and Senate.

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