The ascent of Donald Trump to power in the United States has brought a massive component of favoritism to the government operations in and around the White House. The president often acts impulsively according to what seems to be little more than his feelings about a subject in any given moment. He rarely seems to act with regard to much else — and as has been mentioned in the past, such an assertion isn’t just partisan conjecture. He has, in the past, asserted that when it comes to issues of foreign policy he primarily consults himself.
That trend brought him to a recent surprise announcement that despite a long and ongoing history of combative trade policy, he would seek to ease sanctions on Chinese telecom giant ZTE. Those sanctions had been put in place in retaliation for the company doing business with Iran and North Korea despite Western sanctions against those two countries.
Now, a new report from the Daily Beast has revealed a new element that helped push the president along the path towards the eventual deal to lift the sanctions on ZTE. According to the publication, the day after President Trump tweeted the announcement that he was considering helping ZTE, the company hired Mercury Public Affairs to help it lobby the Trump administration.
The specific Mercury operative who has worked on the ZTE case is Bryan Lanza, who worked at one point for the 2016 Trump presidential campaign. Lanza worked at one point as the deputy communications director for both the Trump campaign and the Trump transition team, as he proudly shares in his Twitter bio.
What this means is that yet again we have an example of a foreign entity using a personal connection of some sorts to the president as a part of a lobbying campaign to turn the tide of U.S. policy in their favor. Other instances of this same phenomena include the Saudi government funneling large sums of money to the Trump organization through a lobbying organization it had employed that patronized Trump’s D.C. hotel. The immense conflicts of interest wrapping up the Trump administration are largely unprecedented.
Mercury spokesperson Michael McKeon offered only vague comments about his company’s arrangement with ZTE, saying:
‘Like any company of its size, [ZTE] faces various challenges and we are helping them from a public affairs perspective to manage those issues.’
Mercury filed documents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act with the Department of Justice explaining their intent as to “perform government relations and public affairs services, including setting up meetings with U.S. government officials related to U.S. sanctions” for ZTE.
As mentioned already, their work could be considered successful, since the United States eased the sanctions in question and thus allowed the company to continue operations. The Trump administration eased those sanctions despite bipartisan concerns about the company being used as an espionage arm of the Chinese government.
In the time since, despite that brief — and perhaps now more easily explainable — moment of the president softening his stance on foreign trade, Trump has returned to his aggression, having just recently imposed tariffs on a host of American allies all around the world.
Featured Image via JIM WATSON/ AFP/Getty Images