May 22, 2018 – Statements of Public Citizen Experts

WASHINGTON – Note: The Wall Street Journal reports that the U.S. and China are closer to resolving their trade dispute, and that a resolution would include U.S. help for the Chinese telecom company ZTE.

“How to explain President Donald Trump’s pending sweetheart deal for ZTE – a repeat lawbreaker and alleged threat to U.S. national security – at the very moment the Tough-Talking-on-China president is failing to win economic concessions from China to benefit American workers? North Korea and geopolitical considerations are part of the equation to be sure. But there also is the matter of a $500 million loan from a state-owned Chinese company to an Indonesian resort development featuring Trump-branded properties. Is there anyone in America who believes that benefiting indirectly from a Chinese loan would NOT influence Trump’s decision to intercede?

“This affair is a screaming violation of the U.S. Constitution’s emoluments clause, which flatly prohibits the acceptance of gifts and benefits from governments in the absence of congressional consent. In this case, there’s nothing hypothetical about how the emolument – the loan – might affect the president’s actions. It’s almost inconceivable that it didn’t.”

– Robert Weissman, president, Public Citizen

“Voters who made Trump president because they believed his promise to get tough on China and restore some of the millions of American jobs lost to unfair China trade will be irate about his caving in to Wall Street instead of achieving any real change and even intervening to reverse national security sanctions for a specific Chinese firm that had admitted to wrongdoing. So imagine the reaction when they realize that he not only betrayed them, but that doing so benefitted his personal business interests.

“Trump caving in to Wall Street on China trade in general and ZTE in specific at this pivotal moment when the U.S. capacity to change the situation is time-limited is so threatening to our country’s future that even the Democratic strategists celebrating how Trump’s betrayal of working-class voters will ruin his reelection chances are quietly worrying about the long-term damage this move will cause.”

– Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch