On Tuesday, May 15, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) joined Rachel Maddow on MSNBC to discuss President Trump's recent actions to protect Chinese jobs and specifically ZTE, a company that violated U.S. sanctions on North Korea and Iran and posed a cyber security threat.
On Monday, the president tweeted:
ZTE, the large Chinese phone company, buys a big percentage of individual parts from U.S. companies. This is also reflective of the larger trade deal we are negotiating with China and my personal relationship with President Xi.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2018
During the interview, Schiff said: "We should be doing oversight of this in Congress. But the committee that would be doing it, Government Oversight is chaired by Trey Gowdy. Although he brought us those endless Benghazi investigations, he has now decided that no longer the Clintons are no longer a target, there really isn’t any point in conducting investigations in that committee.”
The president followed up Wednesday morning:
The Washington Post and CNN have typically written false stories about our trade negotiations with China. Nothing has happened with ZTE except as it pertains to the larger trade deal. Our country has been losing hundreds of billions of dollars a year with China...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2018
...haven’t even started yet! The U.S. has very little to give, because it has given so much over the years. China has much to give!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2018
MADDOW: Adam Schiff is the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman Schiff has become very well-known over the past year and a half for his role in the intelligence committee's investigation of the Russia scandal.
But back before anybody knew that this was going to be a Trump administration controversy, Congressman Schiff was also a key part of a bipartisan investigation into a Chinese telecom company called ZTE. That bipartisan investigation condemned ZTE, described as a threat to the United States. Now, somewhat inexplicably, President Trump has reversed policy on that company. He has declared that he wants to help that company, despite previous bipartisan conclusions that ZTE was a threat, despite decision by the Trump administration just last month that they should be fined more than a billion dollars and banned for seven years from buying any parts from the United States.
Congressman Adam Schiff joins us now live.
Congressman, thank you very much for being with us. Much appreciated.
SCHIFF: Thank you.
MADDOW: What was the threat from ZTE?
SCHIFF: The threat was that the Chinese government essentially could use the telecommunications backbone that ZTE provides to commit espionage in the United States, to spy on our government agencies, to spy on our defense contractors that we considered after an investigation of ZTE and Huawei and other Chinese telecom firm, that this was an unacceptable risk to our national security and, in fact, very recently, Mike Conway, my colleague on the Russia investigation, introduced legislation to prohibit the U.S. government from buying technology and doing business with ZTE, a bill that I’m co-sponsoring.
Those are pretty powerful reasons not to make a special deal for ZTE. But even more compelling, Rachel, frankly, is the fact that they were cheating on sanctions we imposed over Iran's nuclear program and their missile program and sanctions over North Korea, and then lying about it to us. And this capitulation by the president is really inexplicable.
This is not something you deal away our national security interests in a trade deal. That is inviolable, our national security. So something else must be going on. And, of course, you know, you wonder when you see this reporting about China investing half a billion in a Trump-related project whether the two are connected.
MADDOW: And that's -- wonder is the right word there. There is no obvious direct suggestion that their president has made this U-turn in U.S. policy away from a bipartisan consensus in U.S. policy, and the conclusions of his own administration even just last month, there is no indication that that has anything to do with the Chinese government having funded this project that the Trump organization is invested in overseas. But there is a reason why presidents in the past had those kinds of business interests and haven't accepted that kind of foreign financing for anything they're involved in so as to avoid that appearance that might have been motivating the president's decision making.
SCHIFF: That's exactly right. This is the whole point of the Emoluments Clause of the Constitution. We shouldn't have to guess what the president's motivation is. We shouldn't have to wonder, is the president doing this because of some unseen stratagem involving trade or national security, or is this because his family stands to benefit to the tune of who knows how many millions of dollars? We shouldn't have to wonder.
And he, like other presidents should have divested of his business interests. His family members shouldn't be using their positions of responsibility in the administration to further their own businesses. It's, you know, exactly the problem that the Emoluments Clause was designed to address.
And unfortunately, we should be doing an investigation of this in Congress. We should be doing oversight of this in congress. But the committee that would be doing it, government reform the chaired by Trey Gowdy. Although he brought us those endless Benghazi investigations, he has now decided that now that the Clintons are no longer a target, there really isn't any point in conducting investigations on that committee.
MADDOW: Congressman Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee -- sir, I know this is something you've been involved with for a very long time. Thanks for helping us understand it tonight. Much appreciated.