In one of the more bizarre turns of events Friday, even for Trump, on Fox News Trump refused to commit to signing legislation overwhelmingly passed by Congress to support pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
He also claimed that China’s government would have “obliterated” Hong Kong and killed “thousands” of people there were it not for him.”
“If it weren’t for me, Hong Kong would have been obliterated in 14 minutes,” Trump said.
Trump’s apparent willingness to tie human rights issues to progress on the trade front drew rebukes from both Republicans and Democrats, who said such positioning risked compromising the United States’ role as a global defender of democracy.
“Make no mistake: President Trump’s words today do not reflect what the American people or the Congress think about President Xi’s oppressive policies toward the people of Hong Kong,” said Senator Chuck Schumer, the minority leader. “For a guy who promised to be tough on China, President Trump’s reliable deference to President Xi is all the more bewildering.”
Senator Rick Scott, Republican of Florida, said that a veto from Mr. Trump “would be a mistake. Congress spoke loud and clear that we #StandWithHongKong.” He added, “It’s more important than a trade deal.”
Fox News anchor Chris Wallace took a shot at the Trump’s escalating trade war with China, accusing Trump of “flailing around.”
“The best I can tell, the American president can’t order U.S. companies how they’re going to do their sales and where they’re going to have their supply chains,” Wallace said during an appearance on “America’s Newsroom.” “We have a free-market, capitalist system.”
Earlier that afternoon, in a flurry of outraged tweets, Trump accused China of stealing money from the U.S. and ordered American companies to “immediately start looking for an alternative to China, including bringing your companies HOME and making your products in the USA.”
Note: The president doesn’t have the authority to order companies to do anything like that.
“My guess is that most people in this country wouldn’t want to see the president be able to do this,” Wallace said.
He also raised concerns also over Trump’s targeting of Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, whom the president declared an “enemy” of the nation.
“When you have the president of the United States sort of flailing around this way and ordering companies to move back to the U.S. and saying that the head of the Federal Reserve is an enemy of the country, is that going to create more consumer confidence about the state of the economy or not?” Wallace said.