Yesterday Donald Trump posted one of his most bizarre tweets to date, announcing that he was essentially going into business with the government of China in order to save a shady Chinese cellphone maker named ZTE. Why would Trump suddenly care about this defunct company? Why was Trump rambling about the importance of saving Chinese jobs? Now we have our answer: a half billion dollar personal bribe.
Today we learned that the Chinese government is contributing $500 million to a real estate project in Indonesia that will feature Trump-branded hotels and golf courses, thanks to an expose from the National Review. In other words, China dumped a billion dollars into Donald Trump’s latest real estate project, and in exchange, Trump is committing the United States government to a bailout of one of China’s most important telecom companies.
This helps explain why Donald Trump was on the defensive today about his ZTE deal. Yesterday he tweeted this: “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!” Then today he doubled down on it by tweeting “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.”
Of course none of what Donald Trump has said about ZTE is true. What stands out here is that, with Trump’s true motivation for the ZTE partnership having been exposed, he’s now on the defensive about it. The ZTE-Indonesia tradeoff is the textbook definition of bribery. It’s the kind of thing Trump will go to prison for if the Democrats take control in November and oust him from office.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report