6 Takeaways From New Trump-China Reporting
Previously unknown Chinese bank accounts, an FBI investigation, and other shocking new information about Donald Trump and the Chinese Communist Party.
The New York Times investigative team produced another gem this week. They reported on Trump’s shady business dealings with the Chinese Communist Party, continuing even after his presidency began.
Below are six of my takeaways from the reporting of Mike McIntire, Russ Buettner, and Susanne Craig:
1. Trump actively maintains a secret Chinese bank account.
Trump maintains foreign bank accounts in Britain, Ireland, and China. In Britain and Ireland, Trump owns golf courses. Therefore, China is the only foreign country where the president maintains a bank account without having any properties.
The Trump Chinese bank account was previously unknown, and “the identities of the financial institutions are not clear,” according to The New York Times. The Chinese bank account does not appear on Trump’s public financial disclosures.
2. The Trump Organization acknowledged the secret Chinese bank account exists.
A lawyer for the Trump Organization, Alan Garten, told The Times that the previously unknown account exists, but that the account was to “explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia.”
While the lawyer did admit to the secret Chinese account existing, he declined to reveal which bank in China it belonged to, raising questions about transparency and potential conflicts of interest.
3. Trump has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to the Chinese Communist Party.
From 2013–2015, Trump International Hotel Management, L.L.C. (which operates the secret Chinese account), paid $188,561 to the Chinese government. Last year, Trump paid $750 to the United States government for federal taxes, meaning that the president pays the Chinese Communist Party over 250 times the amount he has paid the U.S. government in taxes.
4. Trump has a cozy relationship with China’s biggest state-controlled bank.
Trump and China’s largest state-controlled bank, Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd., have a fruitful and warm relationship.
The bank, which is run by the Chinese Communist Party, had until recently rented three floors in Trump Tower, which The Times reports was “a lucrative lease that drew accusations of a conflict of interest for the president.”
5. Trump has failed to launch in China, despite cozying up to state-controlled entities.
Trump failed to build a tower project in Guangzhou in 2008. In 2012, he failed to make inroads in Shanghai. Trump’s financial dealings in China look eerily similar to his business ventures stateside — lots of failure.
The Times located five shell companies that Trump created to explore Chinese projects. The combined financial investment was about $192,000. All five companies have thus far failed.
When financial ingenuity failed him, Trump turned to good, old-fashioned pay-to-play schemes. Trump partnered with State Grid Corporation, one of China’s largest state-controlled conglomerates, to construct a building in Beijing. According to The Times, the project was “abandoned after State Grid became ensnared in a corruption investigation by Chinese authorities.” Maybe Trump’s extreme vetting didn’t work.
In 2017, the first year of his presidency, Trump reported an “unusually large spike in revenue” from Trump International Hotels Management (the shell company with the secret Chinese bank account). Despite posting relatively small numbers for years, a $17.5 million revenue figure was reported in 2017. Trump withdrew $15.1 million from this account, and only listed it as “management fees and other contract payments.”
Sketchy is an understatement.
6. The FBI investigated some of Trump’s dealings with Chinese Communist Party officials.
Trump’s lack of success in China didn’t prevent him from seeking those Communist Party dollars. Instead of building in China, Trump found more success selling American properties to Chinese officials. The FBI took note.
According to The Times,
Outside of China, Mr. Trump has had more success attracting wealthy Chinese buyers for his properties in other countries. His hotels and towers in Las Vegas and Vancouver, British Columbia — locales known for attracting Chinese real estate investors — have found numerous Chinese purchasers, and in at least one instance drew the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
During the 2016 campaign, a shell company controlled by a Chinese couple from Vancouver bought 11 units, for $3.1 million, in the Las Vegas tower Mr. Trump co-owns with the casino magnate Phil Ruffin. The owner of a Las Vegas-based financial services firm told The Times he was later visited by two F.B.I. agents asking about the company behind the purchases, which he said had used his office address in incorporation papers without his knowledge. It is not known what became of the inquiry.
Chinese cash totaling $5.8 million helped prop up one of Trump’s Vancouver properties. The Vancouver project was overseen by Tony Tiah Thee Kian, a Malaysian businessman with connections to Chinese Communist Party officials. Trump’s work with Mr. Kian reportedly delayed Ivanka Trump’s security clearance as the FBI investigated the partnership.
(Ivanka Trump’s sketchy trademark approvals with the Chinese Communist Party have also come under more scrutiny recently).
Then, Trump sold a penthouse in one of his buildings, which used to be occupied by Ivanka and Jared Kushner, to Xiao Yan Chen. Chen runs an international consulting firm with “high level connections to government and political elites in China.” The transaction was off-market, and Trump reported a capital gain of $5.6 million from the sale to Chen.