After trying (and so far failing) for a year to prove that President Trump and/or members of his campaign team colluded with Russia to throw the 2016 election, Democrats have now decided to pivot to a slightly tweaked new narrative which suggests the President may actually be colluding with China instead.
As the Washington Examiner points out today, just as Trump gets set for meetings in China tomorrow, Senator Richard Blumenthal has suddenly taken a new interest in the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China which rents commercial space in Trump Tower.
In a call with reporters, Blumenthal said a Chinese bank renting space at Trump Tower in New York is illegal without congressional permission and may be influencing Trump's policy decisions.
“To be really blunt, an arm of the Chinese government is paying President Trump rent for his building, and last year as you all know China granted President Trump 40 trademarks,” the Connecticut Democrat said on a conference call.
“These approvals of trademarks closely followed the president’s abrupt decision as president to honor the One-China Policy, a reversal of his earlier position," he said. "Shortly after receiving those trademark registrations, President Trump flip-flopped on labeling China a currency manipulator.”
“As he travels to China, we’re left wondering, Americans are left wondering if President Trump is representing American interests or his own, and which he’s going to put first," he said.
Ironically, while Senator Blumenthal was all too happy to speculate wildly about Trump Tower leases, he was somewhat less eager to answer questions about China's 'People's Daily' newspaper which leases space in the Empire State Building, a building which his wife's family manages.
But Blumenthal did not mention on the call that the People’s Daily newspaper is a tenant in the Empire State Building, which his wife’s family manages. He departed the call before a question and answer period with legal experts.
A moderator on the Constitutional Accountability Center-hosted call would not allow the experts to address whether Blumenthal is himself violating the clause. “The focus of this call is on the president and the lawsuit against him for his patent violations of the Foreign Emoluments Clause," the moderator said.
Blumenthal’s office previously said he does not personally own a stake in the Empire State Building, and that such holdings listed on his annual Senate financial disclosure forms belong to his wife.
But Michael Stern, senior counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives from 1996 to 2004, told the Washington Examiner that under Blumenthal's logic, "President Trump could avoid any Foreign Emoluments Clause problem simply by transferring his financial interests into the names of his wife or children."
As laid out by Trump's attorney, Sheri Dillon of Morgan Lewis, back in January, his roughly 500 business entities were placed into a trust to be run by Eric, Don Jr. and Trump's current CFO Allen Weisselberg who were granted decision-making power over day-to-day operations without consulting the President. Moreover, the trusts strictly forbid entering into new international business arrangements while new domestic arrangements have to be approved by an "independent ethics officer".
Trump’s businesses, which include more than 500 companies with $3.6 billion in assets and ties to more than 20 countries, will be placed into a trust. The trust will be overseen by an independent ethics officer and managed by Trump’s sons Eric and Don Jr., and chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who will make decisions without consulting the president. The Trump Organization will terminate all pending partnerships, and won’t enter into new international business arrangements, such as licensing deals for new hotels, while Trump remains in the White House.
Existing Trump businesses, which include hotels and golf courses, will continue to operate and enter into new agreements, such as hosting weddings, parties and other events. Those will be reviewed by the ethics officer to ensure they are conducted at arms’ length. Trump’s debts will be paid down, according to their schedules.
“President-elect Trump should not be expected to destroy the company that he built,” Dillon said.
Of course, this 'scandal' could be easily solved via a quick review of the Bank of China lease at Trump Tower to make sure the rent is market based...but that's not really the point now is it?