President Donald Trump is rushing to complete a trade deal with China to boost the economy and improve his re-election chances, even as some advisers are urging him to do the opposite and scrap the discussions.
The talks have hit a rough patch due to the coronavirus pandemic, and The Daily Beast reports some advisers — including trade adviser Peter Navarro — have pressed Trump to walk away from an agreement that Trump has seen as a legacy-defining deal for his first term.
Trump has returned to calling COVID-19 the “China virus,” although he initially ignored conflicting messages about the pandemic as it emerged in Wuhan, and has been willing to overlook some of China’s worst human rights abuses to get the deal done.
The president’s supporters roared in approval when Trump boasted about a “big, beautiful monster” of a trade deal with China that was still in initial stages back in January, before the pandemic hit the U.S. and campaign rallies were still a possibility.
“Instead of giving all the money to China, now we’re going to get some of it back,” said Kim Lewis, a 65-year-old corn and soybean farmer Indiana who attended that rally in Toledo, Ohio. “He had the guts to stand up to these other countries.”
But the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner and daughter Ivanka Trump — both senior White House advisers — have been conducting their own personal business with China since the beginning of the administration.
The couple was reportedly targeted by Chinese influence campaigns shortly after the 2017 inauguration, and Kushner engaged in talks with the mysterious and wealthy Anbang Insurance Group even before that.
Kushner’s sister, Nicole Kushner Meyer, highlighted her family ties to the administration — and dangled the promise of U.S. green cards — to raise money in China in May 2017 for an apartment tower in Jersey City, New Jersey, but backed out of an investor conference over negative reports about her efforts.
Ivanka Trump was granted a number of patents from China, starting after her father’s election, but stopped engaging in active business in 2018.
The Trump Organization also sold the couple’s Manhattan penthouse in February 2017 to a buyer with alleged ties to Chinese military intelligence — who paid much more for the personal residence they abandoned for the White House than similar units were fetching.
Angela Chen, whose consulting firm links up U.S. business investors with Chinese power brokers, paid at least $15.8 million for the four-bedroom condo in the Trump Park Avenue building, where a virtually identical unit sold for nearly $2 million less the previous year and other units in the building were selling for 25 percent less, on average.
The president overrode concerns by then-chief of staff John Kelly, intelligence officials and the White House’s top lawyer at the time and ordered a top-security clearance in 2018 for Kushner, who had been forced to update his required financial disclosure forms at least 40 times in the first two years of the administration.