Trump Lawyer Marc Kasowitz Linked to Push to Lift Locals Gambling Ban in Vietnam

Posted on: April 26, 2018, 03:00h. 

Last updated on: April 26, 2018, 08:46h.

Did President Donald Trump ask Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to lift the locals ban in Vietnam’s foreigner-only casinos as a favor to his longtime lawyer, Marc Kasowitz?

Marc Kasowitz
Donald Trump called the Communist Prime Minister of Vietnam, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, shortly after his election victory to the complete surprise of the State Department. Was lawyer Marc Kasowitz asking Trump to influence Phuc into lifting the locals gambling ban on behalf of casino owner Philip Falcone? (Image: Getty)

According to left-leaning, Pulitzer Prize-winning ProPublica, it’s certainly possible – or, at the very least, the call that the then-president-elect made to the Communist leader on December 14, 2016, may have been offered by Kasowitz and Vietnam casino investor Philip Falcone to Phuc as a political favor so he would look more favorably on their cause.

“Phil asked if Marc could arrange a phone call between the president and prime minister of Vietnam,” said a ProPublica insider. “Marc did that.”

Falcone, who owns a large piece of a casino resort called the Grand Ho Tram Strip, around 75 miles from Ho Chi Minh City, is also one of Kasowitz’s major clients. Soon after the Trump call, the two men traveled to Vietnam to meet with government officials to discuss the possibility of lifting the ban.

Kudos for Phuc

The Trump call was a major coup for Phuc, and for Vietnam, and was even broadcast live on national television. But it raised eyebrows in Washington because it came out of the blue and was completely unchoreographed — presidential diplomatic calls are usually carefully arranged and scripted by the State Department.

Meanwhile, diplomatic officials at the US embassy in Vietnam were not briefed about the call at all, although, according to ProPublica, they did hear about it in advance – from Falcone’s casino company.

Falcone took over the Ho Tram Strip project when original developers, MGM Resorts International, pulled out. He may have been envisaging hordes of Chinese high-rollers descending on casino, but they certainly weren’t noticeable when ProPublica visited recently.

It reported the casino was almost completely empty and that customers were outnumbered by staff. One industry observer said, “you could drive a truck through the casino and not hit anyone.”

The old adage “build it and they will come” proved to be way off the mark, and Falcone has reportedly spent years lobbying the Vietnamese government to lift the locals ban.

Kasowitz Acknowledges Providing Contact

A spokesman for Kasowitz acknowledged the lawyer had provided a “telephone contact” to the Vietnamese government to contact Trump, but in an interview this week with ProPublica Falcone denied he had specifically asked for the call to take place.

I find it shocking that people would think that the administration would bring up Ho Tram or even think about getting involved,” said Falcone.

Whatever was discussed in that telephone call – or on Kasowitz’s and Falcone’s subsequent trip to Hanoi – it didn’t work. Despite gestures by the Vietnamese government shortly after the Trump call to relax the ban, it remains firmly in place and shows no further signs of being repealed.

“Literally nothing has changed since the new administration,” Falcone observed.