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Schiff: Trump deal with ZTE a ‘violation of the emoluments clause’
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) said Tuesday that he believes President Trump is violating the Constitution's emoluments clause by making a deal with Beijing over Chinese telecommunications company ZTE.
"I certainly view this as a violation of the emoluments clause, yes. And many others as well, both foreign, in terms of the business effort to expand the Trump Organization," Schiff told CNN's "New Day," referring to a constitutional clause that bars the president from accepting payments or gifts from foreign governments without congressional consent.
"But, also domestically - and this may not be constitutional violation, but it's certainly an ethical violation - by the constant milking of the federal government when the president requires the federal government to patronize Trump-related businesses."
Trump over the weekend said he wanted to help ZTE get "back into business" after the Commerce Department earlier this year prohibited U.S. companies from selling to ZTE because the firm violated American sanctions.
Meanwhile, the South China Morning Post reported last week that the Chinese government will provide $500 million in state loans to build MNC Lido City, a resort and theme park project in Indonesia that will include a golf course and hotels marked with the Trump name.
Richard Painter, who served as an ethics lawyer for former President George W. Bush, told the newspaper that he "would have advised" Trump to sell his his stakes in the project, which he said may violate the emoluments clause.
Norm Eisen, former President Obama's ethics czar, also accused Trump of violating the emoluments clause due to the project.
The president on Monday defended his remarks about helping ZTE, saying they are "reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating" with China.
"ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies," Trump wrote Monday on Twitter. "This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi," he added, referring to Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Schiff in his Tuesday morning interview suggested Trump could also be willing to aid ZTE so China will help him work toward a deal with North Korea over its nuclear program.
"It obviously could be related to China doing this huge business favor. It also could be related to the fact that having walked out of the Iran deal, the president now needs a deal with North Korea more than Kim Jong Un," Schiff said.
"And desperate to get a deal with North Korea, he is now seeking to curry favor with China."