Democratic senators criticize Trump on Chinese trademarks

By Erika Kinetz, Associated Press | Posted - Feb. 24, 2017 at 9:58 a.m.



This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.

SHANGHAI (AP) — Democratic senators are protesting the Trump Organization's acceptance of a valuable trademark from the Chinese government without asking Congress first if doing so is constitutional.

A group of 13 senators warned President Donald Trump in a letter Thursday that they intend to hold him accountable to his oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution. Additional Democrats signed a letter Friday to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson that complains about Trump getting special treatment from China.

"A president must not have two masters," said Thursday's letter, led by Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal. "If you continue to refuse to request and receive congressional approval before accepting favors from foreign governments, we will be unable to serve our constitutional role. Such a situation is unacceptable."

The letters come in response to China's Feb. 14 registration of a trademark for construction services to Trump. He secured the mark only after fighting for 10 grinding years in China's courts to win back rights from a man named Dong Wei. A bureaucratic about-face after Trump declared his candidacy has raised questions about whether his political rise is benefiting his family business. These concerns are particularly sharp in China, where the courts and bureaucracy reflect the will of the ruling Communist Party.

Critics say the trademark award violates the emoluments clause of the U.S. Constitution, which bars public servants from accepting anything of value from foreign states unless approved by Congress. While the actual value of Trump's China trademarks is unclear, Trump himself has said he spent hundreds of thousands of dollars defending them. Trump has significant intellectual property interests abroad, including 49 pending and 77 registered trademarks in China alone. Most come up for renewal during his term.

Alan Garten, chief legal officer of The Trump Organization, did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment. He has previously said that Trump's trademark activity in China predates his election. Garten has also noted that Trump has turned management of his company over to his children and a team of executives in order to remove himself from his business and its trademark portfolio.

Last week, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein called the China trademark registration "a clear conflict of interest and deeply troubling." Feinstein is a signatory to both of this week's letters, too.

"At a time when the United States has pressing economic, diplomatic and security concerns at play in our relationship with the People's Republic of China, the possibility that the Government of China is seeking to win President Trump's favor by granting him special treatment for his businesses is disturbing," said the letter to Tillerson, also signed by Sens. Ben Cardin and Jack Reed.

___

Associated Press writer Matthew Pennington in Washington contributed to this report.

___

Follow Kinetz on Twitter at twitter.com/ekinetz

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Erika Kinetz

    SIGN UP FOR THE KSL.COM NEWSLETTER

    Catch up on the top news and features from KSL.com, sent weekly.
    By subscribing, you acknowledge and agree to KSL.com's Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

    KSL Weather Forecast