Forget Biden scandal, NY Times reports Trump explored building a hotel in China before he was elected. Oh, the horror!

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The New York Times on Wednesday published a lengthy story claiming that President Donald Trump’s companies sought hotel and property deals in China prior to his run for the White House, but the paper did not disclose any evidence or allegations of wrongdoing or illegal behavior.

The Times reports that, according to the president’s tax returns — which were illegally leaked to the paper — Trump International Hotels Management L.L.C. maintains a bank account in the country, having “paid $188,561 in taxes in China while pursuing licensing deals there from 2013 to 2015.”

Alan Garten, an attorney for the Trump Organization, told the Times that the company “opened an account with a Chinese bank having offices in the United States in order to pay the local taxes” in association with business initiatives in China.

He added that the intent behind opening the office was “to explore the potential for hotel deals in Asia.”

“No deals, transactions or other business activities ever materialized and, since 2015, the office has remained inactive,” Garten said. “Though the bank account remains open, it has never been used for any other purpose.”

Garten, the Times said, would not identify the bank. Until last year, one of China’s biggest banks rented three floors at Trump Tower in New York City, but the firm — Industrial & Commercial Bank of China Ltd. — pulled out in October. Also, a large Chinese conglomerate, HNA Group Co., moved to sell a Manhattan office tower four blocks from Trump Tower after U.S. officials cited concerns over national security.

The story goes on to list a number of occasions, dating back to 2006, where the Trump Organization attempted to pursue real estate deals in both China and Russia, all of which were unsuccessful.

The Times also reported that in 2017, the president withdrew$15.1 million from a capital account listed as THC China Development, which previously only reported a few million dollars per year in income.

That year, the company reported $17.5 million, but the president reported the transaction on financial disclosure forms that year, as required. Also that year, the company spent around $6 million to buy out its management contract for the SoHo hotel in New York City. Garten told the Times the buyout represented a “significant portion” of that year’s income for THC China Development.

There are no indications that the president’s companies violated any laws or tax regulations, and the Times does not make any such allegations directly.

The paper also reported instances were wealthy Chinese have bought into Trump properties in Las Vegas and Vancouver, British Columbia, though the Times did not list any instances where the Communist government was involved in any of those purchases.

The report also claims that in at least one instance, a purchase drew the attention of the FBI, but nothing came of the inquiry.

The Times juxtaposed its report against allegations of Chinese-related corruption involving Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. In pushing back against claims by President Trump and allies, the Times reported:

In a misleading claim amplified by surrogates like his son Donald Trump Jr. and his lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president has said the younger Mr. Biden “walked out of China” with $1.5 billion after accompanying his father on an official trip in 2013. Numerous news articles and fact-checking sites have explained that the huge figure was actually a fund-raising goal set by an investment firm in which Hunter Biden obtained a 10 percent stake after his father left office. The firm did receive financial backing from a large state-controlled bank, but it is not clear the fund-raising target was ever met, and there is no evidence Hunter Biden received a large personal payout.

As for the former vice president, his public financial disclosures, along with the income tax returns he voluntarily released, show no income or business dealings of his own in China.

But a recently-released report by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) focusing on Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings notes that his law firm, Owasco, received almost $6 million from a Chinese oligarch who wanted to curry favor and influence in Washington, D.C., Breitbart News reported last month.

The report found that Hunter Biden and various family members have well-established ties to China, Russia, Ukraine and Kazakhstan — countries that then-Vice President Biden was in charge of, policy-wise, during the Obama administration.

And while the Times discounted the $1.5 billion Bank of China deal, investigative author Peter Schweizer said last month that it is unprecedented in the business world.

“Joe Biden became point person to two countries, in particular, Ukraine and in China. And in both cases, his son cashed in,” Schweizer told Fox News’ Sean Hannity in September.

“While his father is meeting with Chinese officials, Hunter Biden is doing we don’t know what. But the evidence becomes clear because ten days after they return to Washington, his small boutique investment firm, Rosemont Seneca, gets a $1 billion deal. That’s $1 billion with a “B,” later expanded to $1.5 billion,” he added.

Also, the Senate report notes that several financial transactions to Hunter Biden and his business partners raised red flags with U.S. banks and federal agencies. It also says that the Obama administration “ignored clear warning signs about ethical conflicts and possible extortion risks involving Joe Biden’s family.”

In one of the most damning revelations, the report said that the Treasury Department flagged overseas payments made to Hunter Biden and business partner Devon Archer for potentially illegal actions.

In “Suspicious Activity Reports,” or SARs, the Treasury Department red-flagged millions of dollars paid out from Burisma Holdings, the Ukrainian energy firm where Hunter Biden sat as a board member.

In addition, the transactions also involved Yelena Baturina, a Russian oligarch, and a Chinese businessman with links to the country’s Communist government, according to the report.

“The Treasury records acquired by the Chairmen show potential criminal activity relating to transactions among and between Hunter Biden, his family, and his associates with Ukrainian, Russian, Kazakh and Chinese nationals,” the report says.

Jon Dougherty

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