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Mnuchin, Lighthizer deny WSJ reporting on tariff negotiations with China: 'It did not happen'
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Sunday that The Wall Street Journal's reporting that U.S. negotiators offered to cut U.S. tariffs on Chinese goods in half is not accurate.
"While we do not comment on the content of negotiations, we have said publicly and on the record that this is totally false, untrue and baseless. It did not happen," the administration officials said in a joint statement.
Mnuchin and Lighthizer said they have "personally" and "on the record" told Journal reporters that the reporting based on anonymous sources is "utterly false."
"No such offer was ever made to China by the United States. There is not a single knowledgeable American negotiator who would support this falsehood. Further, there is no Chinese negotiator who could honestly be this source," the officials said.
"We will not speculate on why the Chinese or an American uninvolved with these negotiations would manipulate the story. This is another example of reporting on an important alleged event based on secret sources, some of which may have obvious bias," they continued. "The Wall Street Journal should make very clear that those actually involved for the United States have so clearly indicated that they are untrue, fabricated falsehoods. It should also expose possible biases of the anonymous source."
A spokesperson for the Journal said "we stand by the reporting of Bob Davis and Lingling Wei."
Trump and administration officials had pushed back on reports that the president agreed to halve the tariffs on billions of Chinese imports last week after the U.S. and China announced that "phase one" of a trade deal had been reached.
The U.S. and China both said they would be keeping tariffs already in place but scrapped additional tariffs that had been planned to go into effect Sunday.
Updated Tuesday at 9:35 a.m.