Trump accuses China of meddling in US midterm elections, blasts Iran, at UN Security Council meeting
President Donald Trump says China has been meddling in the November election in the United States. (Sept 26)
NEW YORK – President Donald Trump on Wednesday accused China of interfering in the U.S. midterm elections as a way to undermine his aggressive trade policies.
“Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming 2018 election, coming up in November, against my administration,” Trump said at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.
“They don’t want me or us to win because I am the first president to ever challenge China on trade,” he added.
Trump did not offer any specific evidence of China’s meddling, but later on Twitter he highlighted a four-page advertorial that ran Sunday in the Des Moines (Iowa) Register newspaper. The publication is owned by Gannett, the same company that owns USA TODAY.
"China is actually placing propaganda ads in the Des Moines Register and other papers, made to look like news," Trump tweeted. "That’s because we are beating them on Trade, opening markets, and the farmers will make a fortune when this is over!"
A senior administration official told reporters in a briefing Wednesday that China was engaged in more than just the advertorials. This official, who was not authorized to speak on the record, said the Chinese government was using a range of overt and covert tools to try to undermine the Trump administration's trade agenda, but did not offer many specifics.
During Wednesday's Security Council meeting, Trump did not mention the extensive and ongoing campaign by the Russian government to sway U.S. elections. Russia and China are both members of the Security Council and had representatives seated at the table as Trump made his remarks.
Although China’s president, Xi Jinping, did not attend Wednesday’s meeting, his foreign affairs minister, Wang Yi, flatly rejected Trump’s accusations of election meddling.
“We did not and will not interfere in any country’s domestic affairs,” Wang said. “We refuse to accept … unwarranted accusations against China."
The sharp exchange came as Trump chaired a Security Council meeting for the first time – amid simmering tensions between Trump and other world leaders over his "America First" approach to foreign policy and his harsh critique of international institutions. The rift was on clear display Wednesday as other world leaders used the forum to push back against Trump's promise to put national sovereignty over multilateralism.
Trump used the Security Council meeting to urge a crackdown on countries that use and spread weapons of mass destruction, which he called a “matter of urgent importance." And as expected, Trump reserved his most pointed remarks for Iran, and he blasted the multilateral 2015 agreement aimed at stopping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. That deal was crafted in part by other countries sitting around the table, including France and the United Kingdom.
Trump pulled out of the agreement earlier this year, and he used the Security Council session to justify that decision before those countries seeking to save it despite the U.S. withdrawal.
“This horrible one-sided deal would allow Iran to continue its path toward a bomb,” Trump said, and gave the Iranian regime “a cash lifeline when they needed it the most.”
Since the deal was signed, Trump said, Iran’s aggression around the world “has only increased,” referencing the country’s ballistic missile program and its support for terrorism.
Several Security Council members, including British Prime Minister Theresa May, strongly defended the Iran nuclear deal and chastised the U.S., without naming Trump, for abandoning it.
May said the agreement "remains the best means" of preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, adding that she was "committed in full" to preserving the agreement even without the U.S. participation.
Sweden's foreign affairs minister, Margot Wallstrom, was more blunt. The U.S. decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal "dangerously undermines our joint nonproliferation efforts elsewhere."
"What is the alternative?" Wallstrom asked. While Iran’s destabilizing role in the Middle East is a problem, she said. "These concerns can and should be addressed separately and not at the expense of the JCPOA," using the acronym for the Iran accord.
Other world leaders echoed that argument and offered more sweeping rebukes of U.S. foreign policy. Bolivia's president, Evo Morales Ayma, was particularly harsh – accusing the U.S. of engaging in a long history of meddling in other countries sovereignty and reminding the council of America's role in the 1979 coup in Iran.
"In 1953, the U.S. financed, planned and implemented a coup d'etat against a legitimate government" in Iran, Ayma said. "After that, for many decades the United States supported an authorization government" and allowed global energy companies to tap into Iran's oil for their own profits.
Now, Iran "is once again the victim of a U.S. siege," the Bolivian president said. He condemned Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, saying the U.S. was "hiding behind pretext to continue its policies of meddling in the internal affairs of Iran."
Trump did not respond to the critiques offered up in what is normally a highly scripted setting marked by diplomatic consensus and cooperation. Some foreign policy experts feared the meeting could devolve into bitter confrontation if Trump did not keep his cool or if he went too far in his anti-Iran jabs.
Although that worst-case scenario did not come to pass, Trump did leave the session early, turning over his gavel to Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the U.N.