“Quid pro quo” are the three words that send chills up the spines of any government official who might be in legal jeopardy. If it can be proven that a public servant agreed to take an action on behalf of an individual or business in exchange for favors, then prison time awaits. Public corruption is something prosecutors always look to root out because political bribery is a cancer that erodes the public trust and tilts policies in the direction of the wealthy and connected.
We are right to focus on what Donald Trump might have promised Vladimir Putin during the presidential campaign in exchange for Russian assistance in the election. But there are other quid pro quo scenarios that also deserves scrutiny. What if the wealthy mercenary Erik Prince’s efforts to set up a “back channel” with Russia during his trip to Seychelles to meet with George Nader (an adviser to United Arab Emirates) and Kirill Dmitriev (Russian sovereign wealth fund manager and Putin ally), was the reason his sister, Betsy DeVos, became the United States Secretary of Education. The meeting occurred during the transition period where the Trump officials were trying to assemble Cabinet members to help him run the government.
Nader has been a cooperating witness for Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Might Prince, who was also a financial contributor to the Trump campaign like DeVos, have confided in Nader that he hoped his efforts would help his sister land a job in the Trump administration? Might Vice President Mike Pence who ran the transition period been made aware of this desired cabinet pick, or someone below him on the totem pole?
Mueller has a very complicated investigation, covering a lot of different avenues. But the questions leaked to the New York Times about what topics Mueller would like to cover with Trump offers a hint. They are open-ended in nature because the President’s response is likely to create follow-up question. So what happens after the questions about Prince and the Seychelles is answered by Trump, if Mueller has some follow-up questions that dig into this potential quid pro quo? Trump is such a transactional figure he might not realize he is walking into a trap.
J.H. Norton is a communications professional, life-long Democrat, and married father of two boys living in Washington, D.C.