Many people seem to have forgotten that just two weeks ago Donald Trump was accused of accepting a $500 million bribe in exchange for allowing Chinese phone company ZTE to resume operations in the United States. The entire transaction was ignored by Congressional Republicans whose job includes providing oversight of the presidency and the executive branch.
But many Democrats in the House of Representatives have not forgotten about the ZTE deal. More than 60 of them are now demanding an ethics investigation into President Trump’s ties to China. The request for an ethics probe came about after Trump got involved by advocating for ZTE after the Chinese government gave a $500 million loan to a Trump joint business venture in Asia.
Democratic Representative David Cicilline of Rhode Island posted to Twitter on Sunday a letter addressed to David Apol, acting head of the federal government’s ethics office. The letter stated that the congressional request had been prompted by Trump’s actions with respect to ZTE.
Cicilline’s tweet accompanying the copy of the letter said:
“Will be sending this letter with more than 60 colleagues to demand an ethics investigation into
@realDonaldTrump advocating for a Chinese company just days after China’s government gave his company a $500 million loan.”
NEW: Will be sending this letter with more than 60 colleagues to demand an ethics investigation into @realDonaldTrump advocating for a Chinese company just days after China’s government gave his company a $500 million loan. pic.twitter.com/EC2fbjz4gr
— David Cicilline (@davidcicilline) May 27, 2018
The letter, on House letterhead, makes clear that the Members of Congress believe that the deal between the Trump Organization and China had violated U.S. laws that forbid public officials from accepting payments or gifts from foreign entities.
The letter reads in part:
“The Chinese government’s loan provides a clear financial benefit to President Trump. Despite the nearly unanimous recommendation by legal experts that he divest from his business interests before assuming the presidency, he failed to do so, instead placing his adult children in charge of day-to-day operations.”
The business deal involved is an Indonesian theme park and development that will house Trump-branded hotels and golf courses. The letter states that because Trump did not divest himself of his business interests upon becoming president he will personally benefit from the success of the Indonesian development project. The project’s success was in doubt until it received a $500 million loan from the Chinese government, and the loan is seeing as directly benefiting the president.
The letter states that there is a clear connection between the loan from China and Trump’s subsequent change in policy to allow Chinese telecommunications equipment maker ZTE to operate in the United States. It says:
“We believe that these events raise several potential constitutional and ethical violations. The extremely short time period between the Chinese government’s loan and President Trump’s order to roll back penalties on ZTE warrants a review of any applicable federal ethics regulations.”
“The Trump administration has yet to give a satisfactory answer about the reason behind and the appropriateness of making concessions to ZTE, a Chinese company that illegally sold U.S. technology to hostile regimes. The Trump administration has also completely failed to address the suspicious timing between this policy reversal and the Chinese government’s loan to a Trump-linked project.”
“As you know, the issue of U.S. policy being manipulated by a foreign entity or the personal business interests of a public official is of grave concern to the American people. We ask that you promptly conduct a review of this matter and keep us apprised periodically about the progress of your investigation.”
The letter ends by requesting that there be an investigation into whether or not the $500 million loan from China was improper, whether Trump sought and obtained congressional approval before receiving the loan, and whether Trump or a member of his administration violated federal laws concerning conflicts of interest.
Every concerned American must hope that the ethics office of the United States will do its job and investigate Trump’s possibly illegal dealings with China. If it doesn’t then it will be a clear sign that Trump’s crooked and corrupt practices have permeated all levels of our government.