One of the cornerstones of Trump’s 2016 campaign was his demonization of China, insisting that the rapidly growing Asian juggernaut is stealing jobs from hardworking Americans and ripping us off in trade deals.
It’s strange then, that now that he’s in power he seems to be singing a completely different economic tune. In particular, Trump started raising eyebrows when, a few days ago, he began to plug Chinese telecom firm ZTE on Twitter. The sudden corporate shilling seemed to come out of nowhere, and strangely the president who ran on a platform built around “creating jobs” for Americans was now concerned with saving Chinese jobs.
President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast. Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 13, 2018
ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
It was a complete reversal of his campaign rhetoric, made infinitely worse by the fact that the company he was advertising was previously identified by American intelligence agencies as a security risk.
Just last month, ZTE was hit with sanctions when it was caught secretly breaking sanctions imposed on Iran and North Korea. The Pentagon also banned phones manufactured by ZTE from retail outlets on U.S. military bases out of concern that they could be used by the Chinse government to spy.
In other words, ZTE is the last company the American president should be trying to help. Why then, does Trump want to help them? As is so often the case with this vile man, it seems to once again come down to simple corruption.
According to the South East China Morning Post, a development project to build a theme park in Indonesia, with financial connections to Trump including hotels, housing, shopping, and a golf course with Trump branding, has been selected by China to be part of their “Belt and Road” infrastructure, meaning it will receive an injection of $500 million in funding directly from the Chinese government.
Essentially, China is directly backing Trump’s latest construction process, a fact which demonstrates a stunning conflict of interest at best, and outright bribery at worst. One can’t help but consider the possibility that Tramp is engaging in flagrant quid pro quo. He gets his half a billion Indonesian project, and the Chinese get him to go easy on ZTE.
“Even if this deal is completely and entirely above board, it simply furthers the perception of impropriety,” Christopher Balding, an economics professor at Shenzhen’s HSBC Business School told SECMP. “Especially with the potential trade war, this is not a good look … Critics will be entirely right to demand answers.”
Richard Painter, the chief ethics official for the George W. Bush administration, told SECMP that Trump’s Indonesian project is a violation of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution, which is designed to prevent the bribery of elected officials. He called the deal problematic and said Trump should have divested from such properties when he became president.
The issue is not whether Trump is violating the Constitution (that’s obvious). The issue is what the House and Senate will do about it when the Democrats get control. Getting Trump-Pence out of office and getting $ out of politics are my top priorities.https://t.co/0k8aIciEfH
— Richard W. Painter (@RWPUSA) May 15, 2018
Now, Norm Eisen, the chief ethics official for the Obama administration has taken to Twitter to accuse Trump of violating the Emoluments Clause as well. Both Eisen and Painter are in agreement that something must be done.
This is a violation of the Emoluments Clause. A big one. See you in court Mr. Trump https://t.co/JuSmCYChyh
— Norm Eisen (@NormEisen) May 14, 2018
The “See you in court Mr. Trump” bit clearly implies that Eisen expects to sue the president, or expects someone else to, over his corrupt practices. Hopefully, it happens soon, before Trump has the opportunity to further damage American national security to line his pockets.