Thursday, February 16, 2017

Upon Further Review...

President Trump may have gotten religion (not Christianity, Judaism, or Islam), switching gears on the USA's traditional "one  China" policy. And in what has been seen as an effort to avoid a trade war with the mainland Chinese, the Trump Administration recently has altered its approach toward alleged currency manipulation by Beijing. On Feburary 14, Slate's Jordan Weissman explained

According to the Wall Street Journal, the White House's National Trade Council is eyeing a plan that would address currency manipulation generally without aiming at China specifically by deeming the practice an unfair subsidy. That will allow individual companies that feel they've been hurt as a result of currency manipulation by China, or by any other country, to bring complaints before the Commerce Department and ask for countervailing tariffs.

Hopeful but appropriately skeptical, Weissman acknowledged "if China ever did start manipulating the value of its currency down again, letting companies complain about it to the Commerce Department might be an inadequate response."

Well, well.   The day after the piece from the somewhat prescient Weissman, The Associated Press reported

The government of China awarded U.S. President Donald Trump valuable rights to his own name this week, in the form of a 10-year trademark for construction services.

The registration became official on Feb. 14 and was published in a trademark registration announcement on the website of China's Trademark Office on Wednesday.

This may well be the first foreign trademark to be handed to Trump during his presidency, but is unlikely to be the last. In China alone he has 49 pending trademark applications and 77 marks already registered in his own name, most of which will come up for renewal during his term.

It's the same old tune, played over and over again in this Administration, now applied to the world's (still) pre-eminent totalitarian regime:

Critics say Trump's global intellectual property interests could be used by foreign states as leverage over the president and may violate the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign governments unless explicitly approved by Congress. These concerns are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party.

The registration this week came as a surprise win for Trump after a decade of trying — and failing — to wrest the rights to his name back from a man named Dong Wei. The abrupt turn in Trump's bureaucratic fortunes once he declared his candidacy has raised questions about the extent to which his political status may be helping his family business.

Questions, indeed  Norman Painter, along with President Obama ethics lawyer Norman Eisen, represent Citizens for Responsiblity and Ethics in Washington in its lawsuit filed in January against Trump. Eisen calls Painter "the Number 1 scholar in the country on government ethics" and

Any special treatment from China would mean that Trump effectively accepted a present from Beijing, an act that would violate the Constitution, Richard Painter, chief White House ethics lawyer under President George W. Bush, said in an email. "A different conclusion might be reached if Trump had been treated like everyone else seeking a trademark, but the evidence does not point in that direction."

The Trumpists still maintain that President Trump would never, ever have any connection with his businesses while he is President. And so

Alan Garten, chief legal officer of The Trump Organization, said Trump's trademark activity in China predates his election. Trump has turned management of his company over to his children and a team of executives in order to remove himself from his business and its trademark portfolio, he added.

China's State Administration for Industry and Commerce, which oversees the Trademark Office, and the foreign ministry could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

David Frum tweeted about last week "one aide violated ethics rules to enrich Trump's family; and then lied about deal to lift sanctions on pro-Trump espionage." (Conway understands well the purposes of this regime.) By all means, investigate thoroughly any connections between General Flynn- and all other individuals in this Administration- and the Kremlin. But also and always, follow the money.  And get those tax returns released.

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