Paul Manafort and Feinstein's China Spy

Paul Manafort stands trial in Special Counsel Robert Mueller's dock for a tax evasion case that the Department of Justice in 2005 decided there wasn't enough evidence to prosecute for no other reason than he later worked for Donald Trump.  Perhaps now he wishes he had been the office manager for California senator Dianne Feinstein (D), who hired a Chinese spy to be her driver and office manager, for there seems to be a double standard here when it comes to working with agents for a foreign power.

There is no evidence or even a suggestion that Feinstein was colluding with the Chinese, just as there is no evidence that President Trump or Paul Manafort, during his short stint as Trump's campaign manager, colluded with Russia.  Yet Manafort is being, prosecuted for a minor crime while the Chinese spy, Russell Lowe, was allowed to pack his box and leave.  No criminal prosecution and no special counsel to see where this thread might unravel.  Again, the difference is that Manafort worked for Trump, and Lowe worked for Feinstein – ironically, one of the leaders in the Russian collusion witch hunt.

Imagine if this were Donald Trump's personal driver being groomed by Beijing's security service to spy on his boss and pass information to the local Chinese consulate and handlers when traveling abroad.  Faster than you can say "Carter Page," a special counsel would be appointed to nail the president for treasonous collusion.

In these cases, the FBI normally gives the organization or office in question what is called a "defensive briefing" – an alert that an individual is up to no good or suspected of doing something sneaky.  The office or organization can then take action.  This was done in Feinstein's case, but not for Trump.

In an editorial, the Wall Street Journal noted the mind-boggling double standard employed by the FBI in dealing with spies and suspected spies in the employ of Feinstein and Trump:

Foreign countries are always trying to steal U.S. secrets, and they sometimes succeed.  In this case Mrs. Feinstein tweeted over the weekend that the FBI approached her five years ago with concerns about an "administrative" staffer in her San Francisco office with "no access to sensitive information."  She said she "learned the facts and made sure the employee left my office immediately."

This is what the FBI should do, and the question Mr. Trump should ask is why the bureau didn't treat him as a potential President with the same customary courtesy.  The FBI claims it had concerns beginning in spring 2016 that low-level Trump campaign staffers Carter Page and George Papadopoulos were colluding with Russians.  Yet rather than give the Trump campaign the usual defensive briefing, the FBI launched an unprecedented counterintelligence investigation into a presidential campaign, running informants against it and obtaining surveillance warrants.  The country is still enduring the polarizing fallout from that decision through special counsel Robert Mueller's probe[.] ...

Mrs. Feinstein is also doing nobody a favor by downplaying this breach.  She claims the driver never had access to "sensitive" information, but the infiltration of the staff of a Senator who serves on the Senate Intelligence Committee is no small matter.  Who knows what the spying staffer was able to hear and report to China over the years?

The FBI of Andrew McCabe, James Comey, and Peter Strzok did not extend the Trump campaign the same courtesy because its leaders wanted to unseat a president they despised and had no such animus against a liberal Democratic senator.

Manafort's financial dealings with Ukraine are the centerpiece of a criminal trial, but no one seems curious about the remarkable financial success Feinstein and her third husband, Richard Blum, had in dealings with China with a Chinese spy on her payroll who arrived on the scene in 1993, one year after Feinstein was elected to the Senate.  As the Los Angeles Times has reported:

On Capitol Hill, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has emerged as one of the staunchest proponents of closer U.S. relations with China, fighting for permanent most-favored-nation trading status for Beijing.

At the same time, far from the spotlight, Feinstein's husband, Richard C. Blum, has expanded his private business interests in China – to the point that his firm is now a prominent investor inside the communist nation[.] ...

In 1992, when Feinstein entered the Senate, Blum's interests in China amounted to one project worth less than $500,000, according to her financial disclosure reports.  But since then, his financial activities in the country have increased.

In the last year, a Blum investment firm paid $23 million for a stake in a Chinese government-owned steel enterprise and acquired sizable interests in the leading producers of soybean milk and candy in China.  Blum's firm, Newbridge Capital Ltd., received an important boost from a $10-million investment by the International Finance Corp., an arm of the World Bank.  Experts said that IFC backing typically confers legitimacy and can help attract other investors.

No conflict of interest here.  "Here's a more recent connection between Sen Feinstein and China the press has ignored.  ZTE, the heavily sanctioned Chinese telecom company that paid a $1bn fine to the U.S., hired its first in-house lobbyist in '11 – none other than a former Feinstein aide," noted Benjamin Weingarten, a contributor for the Federalist, in a tweet.  As the Washington Post reported in 2012, Feinstein has a connection to the notorious Chinese communications firm ZTE:

ZTE, which is also based in Shenzhen, spent $80,000 on U.S. lobbying in the first six months of this year, down from $100,000 for the same period a year earlier, Senate records show.  In October 2011, the company registered its first in-house lobbyist, Peter Ruffo, a former aide to Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Clearly, there is more here than meets the eye.  Perhaps we might need a special counsel to follow the evidence wherever it may lead.  Right, Mr. Mueller?

Daniel John Sobieski is a freelance writer whose pieces have appeared in Investor's Business Daily, Human Events, Reason Magazine, and the Chicago Sun-Times among other publications.

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