White House: ‘We’re Not Going to Forget’ China’s Coronavirus Culpability

In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, Chinese President Xi Jinping talks by video with patients and medical workers at the Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei Province, Tuesday, March 10, 2020. China's president visited the center of the global virus outbreak Tuesday as Italy began …
Xie Huanchi/Xinhua via AP

White House chief deputy press secretary Hogan Gidley on Tuesday said that President Donald Trump is planning to hold China accountable for the Wuhan coronavirus plaguing the planet, saying the administration views China as “culpable” and is “not going to forget” what the Communist authorities in Beijing did to the world.

Asked on Breitbart News Daily on SiriusXM 125 the Patriot Channel to respond to a Wall Street Journal article that claimed the Trump administration will not be taking action against China if China abides by the terms of the phase one trade agreement reached earlier this year, Gidley said that while he had not seen the article, he does not believe that is accurate.

“I haven’t seen the article but I have to say just on its face what you’re telling me it sounds inaccurate,” Gidley told host Alex Marlow. “You’ve heard what the president has been saying about China. We’ve been tougher on China with the tariffs he put in place, with the deals he’s made, he actually was eyes wide open on China from day one. If you actually go back and look at his clips from Oprah in the 80s he’s saying the same thing about China eating our lunch while other people on the other side kind of ignore China and parrot their talking points. I saw a disgusting article in Politico yesterday where they were talking about how China came out unscathed in this and America is kind of the bad guy. I laughed at the byline because I can’t remember the author’s name but the author was the editor in chief for China content—I though ‘for China content,’ yeah that’s exactly right. That’s exactly what China wants him to do.”

The Wall Street Journal article used public comments from a number of Trump officials to infer that the president “won’t seek to punish China economically if Beijing abides by trade commitments made earlier this year.”

The two people the Wall Street Journal quoted were Deputy National Security Adviser Matthew Pottinger and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

Mnuchin’s quote in the article does not even mention any kind of actions related to holding China accountable for coronavirus in the future. He just describes the unrelated effort to make China stick to the trade deal. “I have every reason to expect that they honor this agreement,” Mnuchin said in a Fox Business interview that was quoted by the Journal. Mnuchin added that China not honoring the trade deal would lead to “very significant consequences in the relationship and in the global economy as to how people would do business with them.”

Mnuchin is not quoted as saying anything about future efforts to hold the Chinese accountable for this crisis.

As it relates to the Treasury Department, though, this past weekend on Breitbart News Saturday the department’s spokeswoman, Monica Crowley, said that decisions on holding China accountable would become clearer after the public health and economic crisis in the United States subsides.

“I’m not going to get in front of the president or treasury secretary on any kind of policy discussions or decisions,” Crowley said then. “I know that the administration’s sole focus at the moment is making sure that the American people are safe, and that their well being is intact, and that they are kept safe and healthy, and that the other priority, of course, is the economic priorities in getting America stood up again and getting the economy roaring as only Donald Trump can do. I mean, he did it once, and he’s going to be asked to stand up and do it again within the space of four years, and he can do it because he’s got the pro-growth and economic policies that delivered it the first time around. After this, we will see what considerations are made with regard to making China accountable, and we will see where those discussions take us policy-wise.”

Pottinger, on the other hand, is quoted in the Journal article as having said during an academic conference regarding China: “The U.S. isn’t looking at punitive measures here.”

But Pottinger’s full remarks on China at the Miller Center at the University of Virginia paint a much different story than that short quote the Wall Street Journal plucked out. He berated China for silencing journalists and whistleblower doctors, he lambasted the Communist regime for Tiananmen Square, and he ripped into Beijing for denying its people freedoms—nowhere near an apologist view when it comes to China. Pottinger said in the speech:

Let me break his rule against discussing ‘isms’ to ask whether China today would benefit from a little less nationalism and a little more populism. Democratic populism is less about left versus right than top versus bottom. It’s about reminding a few that they need the consent of many to govern. When a privileged few grow too remote and self-interested, populism is what pulls them back or pitches them overboard. It has a kinetic energy. It fueled the Brexit vote of 2015 and President Trump’s election in 2016. It moved the founder of your university to pen a declaration of independence in 1776. It is an admonition to the powerful of this country to remember who they’re supposed to work for: America first.

That revolutionary tone does not seem to be much of a push to let China off the hook, and he may have just been saying that the United States is not looking at “punitive measures” because he does not want to frame administration action as “punitive.”

As such, during his Monday appearance on Breitbart News Daily, Gidley told Marlow that the president does intend to hold China accountable for its actions, but he did not provide specific planned actions yet.

“I can tell you the president–how that’s going to look and how that’s going to manifest I’m not going to get into on this show,” Gidley said. “But the president knows what’s going on here. He wants to make sure the American people are safe. He wants to make sure we can still work with nations. But the world knows now what we have been saying is fact, and China is culpable in this, and they weren’t giving us the good information. If you’re going to defeat a virus, if you’re going to defeat a plague, if you’re going to defeat pandemics, the best way to do that and the easiest way is with information and data. If there’s a country not sharing that information and that data with the world, it becomes much more difficult to get out ahead of this and to develop vaccines, to mitigate, to know how to contact trace where things have come from. Honestly, I think that even though the media at large doesn’t like the president being tough on China, even other countries now are pointing to the fact that they weren’t being truthful with the world, and that’s a serious problem for them, and that’s something we’re not going to forget.”



Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.