Move Over, Hunter Biden. Meet Eric Branstad, the China Ambassador's Son Who Got Rich in Trump's Swamp.

theintercept.com
7 min read
fairly difficult
Move over, Hunter Biden. Meet Eric Branstad, the China ambassador's son who got rich in Trump's swamp.
I n April 2018, the Trump administration banned Chinese telecom equipment giant ZTE from buying American-made parts, threatening to cripple the company's worldwide operations. An opening salvo in Trump's trade war with China, the measure was extreme. But ZTE had violated export controls by selling technology to Iran and North Korea, then breached an agreement with the Commerce Department in which it had pledged to stop. Moreover, ZTE makes technology that can be used for surveillance and has ties to the Chinese military. Just one month later, however, President Donald Trump unexpectedly tweeted that he might be open to a deal that would free ZTE from the Commerce Department penalty, known as a denial order. "Too many jobs in China lost," he wrote. Republican lawmakers, Washington analysts, and Trump's national security adviser John Bolton were aghast. Bolton later called the sudden reversal "policy by personal whim and impulse." But the White House moved forward anyway. By early June, Commerce and ZTE had reached a preliminary deal. In July, the Commerce Department lifted the ban. ZTE's path back into business with American suppliers has long been shrouded in mystery. Some critics highlighted the role of lobbyists working for ZTE. Shortly after the Commerce Department penalized ZTE, a law firm representing the Chinese company started paying the lobbying outfit Mercury Public Affairs $75,000 a month to unwind the order. Mercury partner and former Trump campaign adviser Bryan Lanza took on the account. But an Intercept investigation has found that Lanza traveled to China with a Mercury colleague and fellow Trump campaign veteran: former Commerce Department official Eric Branstad, who is also the son of Terry Branstad, then Trump's ambassador to China.

Eric Branstad was close with Trump and had joined Mercury just three months earlier, after a stint advising Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. He had a checkered past, marred by killing two people in a car crash when he…
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