A New Kind of Influencer: Friend of the Presidents Kid
Yeah just a note before we get started. Producing investigations on a regular schedule is tricky which is one reason you haven't heard from us in a while the summer were working on more stories and you will hear from us every now and then including an episode would later this week following Robert Muller's testimony if you want to know when new episodes come out sign up for our newsletter and when we come back in September will have new episodes on a regular fortnightly schedule that means a new trump INC story every two weeks hello and welcome to the trump INC podcast extra. I'm Elliot merits. Trumping is an open investigation into the business of trump from PROPUBLICA and W._n._y._C.. Here's the story about how someone with no particular technical background or subject matter expertise manage to put himself in the middle of vital national security issue and we don't know what impact he might have had. It's a window into the way power and influence work. Mark Trump's Washington propublica reporter. Jake Pearson found a good friend. Donald trump junior was able to meet with high level government officials again and again on the future of wireless broadband technology also known as five the G. Five G. and mobile broadband is a resource that is going to touch and does touch everything we do the future not just of communication but of war fighting. It's driverless cars machine learning. It's how all devices talk to each other. It's also a major national security concern another way to think about five G. is a rivalry between the United States and China. The two biggest economies in the world are increasingly developing thing and trying to promote their own sort of plans to implement the technology faster than the other and as this was happening. Don Juniors friend found a seat for himself at the policymakers table and then Jake learned he found another seat. For a friend of his a guy with financial incentives to take a hard line on China so jake the government is trying to figure out how to deal with five G. This major point of tension with China and you discovered averred that someone with not much qualification to be there manage to get into the room with policymakers discussing this stuff he got access. How did you get interested in Tommy Hicks Junior so I started this project in part because I'd been looking at Donald trump junior and friends of his and the ways in which his newfound prominence on the national stage was being interpreted by people close to him people who had business interests and one of those people is this guy? Tommy Hicks Junior the tastic Tommy Hicks junior is a longtime friend of Donald Trump Junior. Jami Hicks thank you Tommy. Thank you thank you Johnnie Ray Jog. Tommy Hicks is from Texas. He's the son of a very wealthy investor Ester and former private equity Maven of his time and he is also he's also junior. That's right. He's also junior and he's also a big hunter. As Donald Trump junior is and the to have hunted together all over the world for years. Tommy Hicks Junior has also been a prominent campaign fundraiser during the two thousand sixteen campaign and has sort of leverage that prominence into a number of high profile positions within sort of the trump campaign world without being an official campaign employees so this trail led you from Donald trump junior to Tommy Hicks junior his hunting buddy and then to another Texan Kyle Bass who is he kyle bass is a hedge fund manager in Dallas and he makes big dollar bats on world events and macro trends bass is most well known for being among those who correctly predicted the housing crisis and bet against subprime mortgages and made a lot of money. Doing he made a lot of money doing it in recent years. Bass has bad bad that China is going to face some serious economic problems and he's bet that it's banking and credit system are going to face real problems BASCO's on T._v.. All the time to talk about this Europe is definitely our ally and China's definitely our enemy. They've done so many things to the United States because we basically been a pacifist nation over many different administrations were finally standing up and saying listen this has to change <music> <music> and he's a longtime friend of Tommy Hicks Junior so donald trump is sworn in the beginning of two thousand seventeen as president and that same year Hicks is called upon to offer some help to his friend Kyle Bass Texas Hedge Fund one guy. What does he do? Tommy Hicks Helps Arrange a meeting at the Department of Treasury for Kyle Bass to present his views on China and its banking system to a high level group of top level officials from a a bunch of different federal agencies. There's a top level officials from the Securities and Exchange Commission. There are career officials from Treasury. There's a top National Security Council official they are and others. Do you think the people in the room understood who they we're hearing from and that this person Kyle Bass had a very significant financial stake in the stuff that he was looking at your folks I have talked to were all generally aware that Kyle has had a bet on China and and the government has described it as they're calling sort of a listening only session that they didn't divulge anything to him and he wasn't told anything about coming actions or what have you the question and we've talked to an ethics expert about it is given sort of an opportunity that others were not to try and influence policymakers with respect to China and how did the government handle it. What did they do to process the information and that's the ethical question in part? I can kind of see why a manufacturer or somebody who sells products to consumers while the government would want to hear from someone like that. What is the reason that the government would want to hear from somebody? Who is it essentially placing a bet on an economic trend? You know we quote of former N._S._A.. Official in the story who was at the meeting saying essentially that we meaning the government needs to hear from. Those who are experts you know the point he makes also is that it's hard for them to sort of untie themselves untangle themselves from their financial holdings but that managers like Kyle Bass with the bed on China are the experts birds and the government needs to hear from them and what does Tommy Hicks Junior an expert on i. I don't know I mean he's a he is a prominent person in trump world politics and I think think he obviously knows folks in that world. It's not a bureaucracy but it is a world unto itself and that has value so far as we know this is the only meeting that Kyle royal baskets but the records you got through a freedom of information request show the Tommy Hicks Junior. He continues to communicate with people in government for months in late seventeen in early eighteen. The record show that Tommy is is <hes> included on emails attending meetings organizing meetings weighing in policy about companies and technical capabilities with officials from the National Security Council from different White House offices his and he sets up a meeting at the Commerce Department with Secretary Wilbur. Ross are these meetings about China and broadband technologies that would it's about yes they are and this is really where five G. Matters. Why is that exactly Kabas has himself talked talked about five G.? He has said in a TV interview that it is a top priority and important economic issue in U.. S. and China relations so clearly he has an interest in the Chinese economy. We know this because has of his bat five G. as integral to economic outcomes as well as national security ones and in this way there's sort of a confluence of interest what do Tommy Hicks Junior and Kyle Bass say will neither of them agree to do an interview with me. In a statement meant Tommy Hicks Junior said that yeah he did take some meetings with government officials on issues that he believed in as a businessman but that there was no thing untoward about it and Kyle Bass call vast likewise declined to be interviewed about this. And discuss specific answers he did say that there was no corrupt intent behind his meeting with the treasury officials. Have you talked with the trump administration about these meetings. Yeah I have and well <hes> the administration has basically said that this was a listening <unk> only session this meeting at Treasury with Kyle Bass that officials they are divulge anything and then Kyle Bass didn't promote a particular policy position that he wanted them to take the government also says that they screen the officials who were there to make sure there are no conflict issues but the administration has acknowledged that they didn't take a similar look at whether or not Hicks and Bass had a business relationship. You write in your piece quote. Hicks is hardly the first private-sector powerbroker broker to emerge in a presidential administration but he may represent a new subspecies the friend of the president's kid we'll look I think that he himself has made relationships. You know his family was has been a big donor owner to Republican politics for years and that he has sort of become a powerbroker in his own right but certainly nobody disputes that his involvement in trump world is a direct outgrowth of his longtime friendship with the the president's son earlier this year. Tommy Hicks Junior got a new job. I hear his Tommy Hicks. Who is the CO chair of the A._N._C. Working for Don Junior's father her as co chair of the Republican National Committee and a close personal friend of the family when he was inaugurated I figured out that the fight had just started and so I've dropped everything once again to he's the number two of the Republican Party and he appears to have only gained more access or consistent access within government and the trump administration and I've been incredibly impressed with the staff in the building and the campaign? That's great to work doc with everybody you know in April he traveled to Taiwan with a delegation from the R._N._C. met with the president there that is in the context of China significant clearly because of Taiwan's status and he is involved. Solved on twitter to promote the president's agenda to gear up for the twenty twenty elections and he <hes> by all accounts is committed to four more years of president trump in your research. You learned some things about Tommy Hicks junior that that Hicks probably would prefer people did not know <hes> he was arrested when he was in high school for being part of a group that beat up a fellow student at a party according to the victim of the attack they were calling him faggot. The charge was eventually reduced to a misdemeanor demeanor Hicks pleaded no contest he went on to college. You went to the University of Texas where his father is a major donor jake. How did Tommy Hicks Junior go from there to the top of the Republican party he by all accounts <music> spent many years after school and after college working for businesses run by his father sports teams run by his father he did a stint in a investment banking firm that was a client of his father's and he also also according to friends and we talked to I talked to dozens of folks had a few incidents many incidents of acting sort of boorishly and acting inappropriately people say now who know him that he's matured that marriage and fatherhood it has affected him and that he is motivated to get into politics now out of a sense of patriotism and that is what motivates Propublica Jake Pearson trumping is an open investigation into the trump family business? Send US your tips. It's tips at trump INC podcast dot org we also have secure methods to communicate find out how at trump INC podcast dot org and while you're there sign up for our newsletter may creamer is the executive producer of trumping. This episode was also produced by Alan Wilder Bill. Moss is the technical director thanks this episode also to Irene Irving Trudell. The editors are Eric Kamensky Nick Varsha Ver- Andrea Bernstein and Robin Fields. Jim Schachter is the vice president for news W._N._Y._C.. Steve Engelberg is the editor in chief of propublica original music by Hanns Braun.