Trump trade official calls President Xi 'communist zealot' — as his administration desperately tries to get a deal with him
Chinese President Xi Jinping (right) waves to the press as he walks with US President Donald Trump at the Mar-a-Lago estate in West Palm Beach, Florida, April 7, 2017 (AFP Photo/JIM WATSON)

On Monday, Bloomberg News reported that Ted McKinney, President Donald Trump's trade undersecretary at the Department of Agriculture and a former associate of Vice President Mike Pence, told a D.C. gathering of nearly 400 members of the National Farmers Union that the president of China is a "communist zealot."

"Let me just tell you what: Mr. Xi Jinping is a communist zealot. He sees himself very much in the spirit of Mao Zedong," said McKinney. He added that, "Chinese nationals are not allowed to go to church. No, no, no, no, no, no — off limits."

These remarks come as the president has mired the United States in an open-ended trade war with China that is costing American jobs, sending prices skyrocketing, and driving farmers around the country into bankruptcy. Xi's government has shown little interest in cutting a deal with Trump, and some experts have suggested he is simply waiting out Trump's term in office.

Even McKinney, though he expressed optimism a deal could be reached, admitted it isn't certain.

"We were negotiating very well" early in the year, he told the National Farmers Union. "I hope to pick up where we last left off. But I'm only 50-50."