Donald Trump met with Republican members of Congress at the White House Wednesday to tell them to back off on attempts to scrap his attempts to help Chinese telecom firm ZTE, claiming his efforts to help the company is part of a “broader geopolitical negotiating strategy.”
Some close to Trump say his claims are just another lie. He really wants to help ZTE to help Chinese president Xi Jinping, who in turn granted a profitable string of trademarks that mean millions in new business for daughter Ivanka.
In question too is Chinese government support of an Indonesian real estate development that will include several Trump-brand properties. The Chinese government issued $500 million in loans to the project just a few days before Trump announced his support for ZTE.
Trump ordered the Commerce Department to water down sanctions and penalties against ZTE right after Ivanka Trump got the trademarks and after the Chinese boss lobbied him for help with ZTE.
David J. Apol, acting director and general counsel for the federal government’s ethic office says Trump’s business dealings “raise serious concerns” but adds that he does not have the power to launch any investigations. Such investigations are the purview of Congress, which is controlled by the party of Trump.
ZTE is also believed to be heavily involved in hacking American government and business operations and was heavily fined and sanctioned by Congress.
The sanctions barred ZTE from buying American products, including semiconductors, for seven years as punishment for violating United States sanctions against Iran and North Korea but Commerce — under orders from Trump — decided to levy a $1 billion fine on the company along with orders to replace senior leadership and install American compliance officers.
Trump also wants to develop real estate properties in China and knows the penalties on ZTE could bring that effort to an unprofitable halt.
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, high-ranking GOP leader in the Senate, says lawmakers are willing to compromise.
The House, which marches to any tune Trump issues, has already axed the penalty but the Senate can still leave it in place.
“We came to no conclusion that I could discern,” said Senator Ron Johnson, Republican of Wisconsin. “This type of meeting really isn’t one where you’d think you will really come to any conclusion.”
The decisions will be one where the Senate decides to serve the nation or fatten Trump’s bank account.
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