Saudi Arabia Not on Trump’s Travel Ban List Despite Providing 15 of 19 9/11 Hijackers

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Talking about Donald Trump’s proposed travel ban Sunday on CNN’s State of the Union, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) told host Dana Bash that his master’s travel ban would target people who come from countries “that have sent a large number of people that have become terrorists.”

Asked by Bah if Trump “is in favor of a ban on all immigration from certain countries,” Sessions answered that,

“He simply said, and the way I understand, and what I think, is that we should slow down. Let’s have a pause and begin to analyze where the threats are coming from. We have a toxic ideology, hopefully very small within Islam; certainly most people, most Muslims don’t agree with this violent, jihadist approach. And we need to figure out a better way to identify that.”

Watch courtesy of CNN (relevant discussion begins at 2:25 mark):

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Bash asked if Trump’s plan is to look at “certain countries or certain religions” and how the ban “would work in practical terms.” Sessions answered that “about 95 percent or so are from Islamic countries.”

Bash asked which countries they were looking at specifically, naming as an example, Saudi Arabia. This was Sessions’ answer:

“The public data that we have indicate there are quite a number of countries in that region that have sent a large number of people that have become terrorists…Pakistan has a number, Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen.”

Significantly, Sessions did not include Saudi Arabia even though, if he wants to find the point of origin for terrorists, he should: 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were citizens of Saudi Arabia.

Why might Donald Trump give Saudi Arabia a pass? Well, Donald Trump is a businessman. He has huge business ties with Russia and you might notice he is soft on Russia too, and very cozy with strongman Vladimir Putin. We are right to question whether NATO is more important to Trump than his business ventures in Russia.

And despite blaming them for 9/11, he also has huge business ties with Saudi Arabia, including a potential hotel project in Jeddah.

In other words, there is a huge gap between Trump’s rhetoric and reality. Trump has no significant business interests in Afghanistan. It is easy to blame Afghanistan, particularly since the Orlando nightclub shooter’s parents emigrated from that country.

But about 50 people died in Orlando; over 3,000 died on 9/11. This seems then to be less about danger vectors than sources of wealth: It would seem that Trump is picking out countries which he is not invested in, or, put another way, countries where rich Muslims are enriching him.

He also, according to Sessions, doesn’t plan on punishing those rich Muslims by including them in his travel ban, saying “You’ve got diplomats and business people,” who, apparently, don’t bring dangerous ideologies with them. Never mind that Osama bin Laden began as a businessman with a dangerous ideology – son of a Jeddah construction magnate, no less.

Donald Trump says nobody owns him and he is beholden to none, when the fact is, he is beholden to everybody. And when push comes to shove, the American people need to ask if Trump will be more interested in his business empire than in the welfare of the United States.

America’s relations with Saudi Arabia are complicated. But Donald Trump is the candidate with “yuge!” business ties with that country, and his rhetoric therefore assumes a more “nod, nod, wink, wink” appearance when pitted against his business ventures (like four Trump companies with “Jeddah” in their names).

What comes first? America’s safety or Trump’s wallet? It is by no means clear that Donald Trump, despite all his talk about making America great again, isn’t more interested in making Donald Trump richer more than he is America safer.