Brett Ivy / Flickr Donald Trump...
Brett Ivy / Flickr

Following last week’s revelation that several million dollars flowed through the shell company set up by Trump lawyer Michael Cohen in an apparent pay-to-play scheme, we are now living in a world where no American can be certain major White House policy decisions are being guided by what’s best for the country. More and more, it appears Donald Trump may be picking winners and losers among companies based purely on what’s best for him, and his latest intervention with Chinese telecom giant ZTE is no different. Business Insider writes:

President Donald Trump shocked experts on Sunday when he reversed course and suggested that US sanctions against the Chinese tech giant ZTE would be lifted — a move that could show a shift in Trump’s stance on trade.

“President Xi of China, and I, are working together to give massive Chinese phone company, ZTE, a way to get back into business, fast,” Trump tweeted. “Too many jobs in China lost. Commerce Department has been instructed to get it done!”

Wait—suddenly, Trump is adopting a China First policy? Or here’s an alternative explanation: China poured $500 million into a Trump Org development in Indonesia.

The park – expected to be backed with up to US$500 million in Chinese government loans – is part of an “integrated lifestyle resort”, known as MNC Lido City.

The project includes Trump-branded hotels, residences and a golf course, as well as other hotel, shopping and residential developments.

Yeah. So it looks suspiciously like America’s president traded a deal that stands to line his own pockets for bailing out a Chinese company that U.S. intelligence officials feared was monitoring American citizens.

The new ban follows multiple statements by major US Intelligence agencies earlier this year questioning the trustworthiness of Chinese networking giants Huawei and ZTE. Heads of the NSA, FBI, and CIA cited concerns that both companies may be using their technology to spy on US consumers, and then sharing that data with the Chinese government, though none of those agencies has provided evidence of that behavior actually taking place.

Folks, this cannot be underscored enough: Donald Trump is acting exactly like an autocrat now—using his executive powers to determine which companies benefit or not based on his own personal interests. While it’s difficult to be certain of the motivations behind every regulatory move he makes, the pattern is unmistakable—and something I delved into deeply in my column last weekend.

The problem with Trump wielding the regulatory system like it’s there to cater to his every whim is not only that it means U.S. policy isn’t necessarily benefitting the U.S. citizenry—it’s that it kills any faith among the citizens that their government is actually working on their behalf.

And just to be clear, Trump’s move was yet another brazen example of him departing from the norms that had, until now, guided our governance. It left those who helped initiate the investigation into ZTE gobsmacked.

“I am speechless,” said Kevin Wolf, who was assistant secretary of commerce under former President Obama. […] Wolf, who oversaw the beginning of the ZTE case during his time in the Obama administration told the Financial Times, “I’m highly confident that a [U.S.] president has never intervened in a law-enforcement matter like this before. … It’s so outside the way the rules were set up.”

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