In the last three months of 2018, GOP megadonors Sheldon and Miriam Adelson donated $500,000 to a fund set up to pay legal expenses incurred by aides to President Donald Trump, The Washington Post reported Thursday night.
Contributions to the fund are specifically allocated to pay expenses for aides wrapped up in the investigation into whether Russia colluded with the Trump campaign. The Adelsons donated $250,000 each on October 1. Just a little over one month later, Trump awarded Miriam Adelson the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Before receiving the medal, the Adelsons donated $30 million to Trump’s presidential campaign in the final months of the 2016 race, and last year, donated $100 million to various Republican candidates and GOP-aligned PACs in the midterm elections. In fact, as Open Secrets noted last fall, other than Trump himself, the Adelsons were the largest donors to the Trump campaign. They also donated $5 million to Trump’s inaugural committee.
Their sizable financial investments have yielded significant returns. Sheldon Adelson is widely believed to have been one of the most significant influences in Trump’s decision to move the Israeli embassy to Jerusalem. At the medal ceremony in November, Trump called Adelson a “committed doctor, philanthropist, and humanitarian,” but many saw the award as merely a thank you gift.
“It’s ludicrous, and an insult to people who received the medal for genuine service,” The New York Times’ Paul Krugman wrote on Twitter.
“It’s emblematic of the corrupt and transactional presidency of Donald Trump, and it is a shame, but not a surprise, that he is corroding and corrupting a civic treasure, an honor like the Medal of Freedom,” Robert Weissman, president of public interest group Public Citizen, told The Guardian.
Lindsay Walters, a White House spokeswoman, also told the paper last fall that Trump went through the same process as all previous administrations when deciding Medal of Freedom Award recipients. The process was coordinated by the office of the staff secretary, taking into account recommendations from the public, relevant presidential advisory bodies, the cabinet and senior White House staff, she said.