Secret Chinese bank account remains a problem for Trump

A scandal-plagued American president defended a previously undisclosed bank account in China with two claims, both of which are wrong.

China's President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump attend a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Nov. 9, 2017.Nicolas Asfouri / AFP - Getty Images file

It came as a bit of a surprise this week when the New York Times reported on the existence of Donald Trump's previously undisclosed bank account in China. Not surprisingly, Democrats wasted little time seizing on the revelation.

Former President Barack Obama spoke in Philadelphia and wondered aloud how it's even possible for Trump to have a secret Chinese bank account. "Can you imagine if I had a secret Chinese bank account?" Obama asked, adding that Fox News "would've called me Beijing Barry."

A day later, Pete Buttigieg appeared on Fox News and pressed the same point: "If Republicans want to talk about the business dealings of a government official, let's talk about this: Why does Donald Trump have a secret bank account in China? ... I'm pretty sure it bothers Americans a lot more than what they're trying to whip up."

During the final presidential debate of the year, Joe Biden also brought it up, and for the first time, the president addressed the issue publicly. "I was a businessman doing business, the bank account you're referring to, which is -- everybody knows about it -- it's listed, the bank account was in 2013," Trump said. "That's what it was. It was open and it was closed in 2015, I believe."

Is that true? Let's take the claims one at a time. First, the idea that "everybody" knows about the account because "it's listed" is wrong. As this week's Times report explained, the account was never disclosed before now:

The foreign accounts do not show up on Mr. Trump's public financial disclosures, where he must list personal assets, because they are held under corporate names. The identities of the financial institutions are not clear.

Second, the president's belief that the account was "closed in 2015" is also wrong. The Times added in a debate fact-check:

An attorney for the Trump Organization told The Times that the bank account Mr. Trump's company owned in China is still open.

So where does that leave us? With a scandal-plagued American president defending a previously undisclosed bank account in China with two claims, both of which are wrong.

Democrats were only too pleased to draw attention to the story this week; don't be surprised if this continues next week.