Donald Trump claims 'Jack Abrahamoff scandal' proves he was right about tribes

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump with Megyn Kelly of Fox News. Photo from Twitter

More than two decades ago, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump claimed the Indian gaming industry was going to be overrun by criminals and he says the "Jack Abrahamoff scandal" proves he was right.

Trump is, of course, referring to Jack Abramoff, a fellow Republican who admitted that he defrauded his tribal clients out of millions of dollars while seeking to protect their gaming interests. More than a dozen public officials and lobbyists pleaded guilty for their roles in the scam.

"It was 100 per cent right about this -- it was the Jack Abrahamoff scandal," Trump told The Financial Times in an email.

What Trump didn't mention is his connection to a player in the scandal. His campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, once served as chief of staff to former Rep. Bob Ney (R-Ohio), who the only member of Congress convicted as part of the scandal.

“I had the privilege of spending 20 hours a day with Bob seven days a week for over three years,” Lewandowski wrote in a letter to the federal judge who handled the case against Ney, The Daily Beast reported last September. “In that time, I learned more about life, people, politics, friendships [sic] and the importance of family than I ever could have imagined. Bob served as a mentor to me, as a surrogate father, and as a best fiiend [sic] all in one.

Trump also left out the fact that his complaints about the Indian gaming industry were largely centered on organized crime. While Abramoff and his cronies indeed pleaded guilty to crimes, they were not an enterprise of the type the real estate mogul was referring to when he testified before Congress in October 1993.

"But to sit here and listen as people are saying that there is no organized crime, that there is no money laundering, that there is no anything, and that an Indian chief is going to tell Joey Killer to please get off his reservation is almost unbelievable to me," Trump told the House Subcommittee on Native American Affairs, according to the transcript of the heated proceeding.

Tribal casinos are no strangers to embezzlement, theft and other criminal incidents. But organized crime has not infiltrated Indian Country to the extent Trump claimed.

But if the presumptive GOP nominee wins the presidency, Trump will have a chance to prove himself "100 per cent right." again -- he will hold considerable sway over the $28.5 billion and growing tribal casino industry. He would be responsible for appointing the leaders of the National Indian Gaming Commission and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the two agencies with control over gaming compacts, land-into-trust applications and other regulations.

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Trump stands by casino scandal claim (The Financial Times 5/20)

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