Trump call with mega-donor Adelson blows up, now heats up By John L. Smith, CDC Gaming Reports August 12, 2020 at 8:00 pm When it comes to politics, Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson usually makes news by writing big checks. His millions fueled the rise of Donald Trump and have aided GOP causes for years. Now, the chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands is making even bigger news for checks he didn’t write. Politico’s Alex Isenstadt first reported last week that a recent call between Adelson and President Trump went sideways after the man in the White House questioned the casino king about failing to make major donations to his re-election campaign. As reported, Adelson had reached out to the president in an attempt to discuss the coronavirus relief effort that has stalled in Congress. The call controversy comes at a time Trump is slumping in the polls and continues to downplay the coronavirus pandemic that has taken more than 160,000 American lives and is projected to kill more than 250,000 by November. The story quickly ricocheted through the press as insiders and pundits speculated about the potential costs of a possible falling out between Trump and his grandest sugar daddy. A sample of the damaging headlines: From The Jerusalem Post: “Trump turns on Sheldon Adelson over campaign funding in heated phone call.” From Salon: “Republicans panicked after ‘contentious phone call with top GOP donor Sheldon Adelson.” From The Independent: “Trump ‘antagonizes’ one of his biggest donors in ‘heated’ call.” The fallout continues. Now The Nevada Independent reports former prosecutors and current members of Congress Kathleen Rice and Ted Lieu are pressing the matter with a letter to FBI Director Christopher Wray calling for an investigation of the phone call as potential evidence of attempted bribery by a donor. Or is that nondonor? Quoting Politico, Lieu and Rice wrote, “’Trump brought the conversation around to the campaign and confronted Adelson about why he hasn’t done more to bolster his reelection.’ Depending on details of that conversation, a crime may have occurred. It is illegal for a donor to ask an elected official to take action on a specific piece of legislation and in exchange give money or agree to give money.” Sheldon Adelson and Miriam Adelson at President Trump’s inauguration. But, of course, we don’t yet know precisely what was said, and the Nevada Independent reports a source close to Adelson calling the Lieu-Rice letter “pure politics.” Lieu, a Democrat from California, served as a military prosecutor in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps. Rice, a Democrat from New York, served as an assistant United States Attorney in Philadelphia. Two Democrats write a strong letter to the FBI Director. Maybe that’s just politics as usual in some books but calling for a federal investigation of a sitting president and his biggest donor is nothing to take lightly. And speaking of politics, the fact the letter exists gives legs to yet another story that makes the President look erratic and egomaniacal. The call would be much easier to laugh off if one of the voices on the phone line didn’t belong to the guy whose ham-handed phone hustle of the President of Ukraine led to impeachment. The letter alludes to something that may make Adelson think twice before cutting another check to Trump: “If Mr. Adelson also directly or indirectly promised anything of value to the President, or in fact makes another donation to support the President in exchange for a certain action, then that could meet the elements of bribery.” Short of that, the fallout from the call adds to the mystery surrounding the conversation between the casino titan and the man he helped elect to the highest office on the planet. Las Vegas Sands operates casinos in Las Vegas, Macau, and Singapore and reported a net loss of nearly $1 billion in the second quarter due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In Macau, Las Vegas Sands is currently spending $2.2 billion to expand its already leading presence. But coronavirus has diminished gaming revenues in the Chinese gaming market throughout 2020, starting with the cancelation of the Chinese New Year celebrations in January. “We believe that the public reporting has provided more than enough of a factual predicate to open an investigation into this matter,” former prosecutors Lieu and Rice wrote. “We thank you in advance for your consideration of this request.” John L. Smith is a longtime Las Vegas columnist and author. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @jlnevadasmith.