Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trump's team says controversial chat with Taiwan was 'just a phone call'

When he took a phone call that no U.S. president or president-elect has taken for nearly 40 years, Donald Trump had no intention of changing U.S.-China policy - at least not yet, said senior transition adviser Kellyanne Conway.

"It was just a phone call," Conway told Chris Wallace on "Fox News Sunday" about Trump's 10-minute phone call with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen.

In response to Wallace's question about whether the call signals a shift in the decades-long U.S. policy toward China (namely, that the United States doesn't recognize Taiwan as a country, let alone talk publicly with its president), Conway said: "It signals the fact that he was accepting a congratulatory call."

During an appearance on ABC News's "This Week," Vice President-elect Mike Pence characterized the conversation as simply a "courtesy call" and demurred when host George Stephanopoulos asked whether it signaled a break with the United States' "one-China" policy.

"We'll deal with policy after Jan. 20th," Pence said, referring to Inauguration Day.

On NBC's "Meet the Press," Pence said that, to his knowledge, neither he nor Trump had reached out to China in the aftermath of the episode, which he characterized as "a little bit of a tempest in a teapot."

"I think most Americans and, frankly, most leaders around the world know this for what it was," Pence said. "And it's all part and parcel. I think you're going to see in a President Donald Trump a willingness to engage the world but engage the world on America's terms."

Trump's team seemed not to differentiate between the call with Taiwan - which had Chinese leaders fuming and left many U.S. diplomatic leaders stunned - and the dozens of other phone calls from world leaders he has received.

But most members of the U.S. diplomatic corps say there are potentially major consequences for a U.S. president or president-elect chatting with Taiwan's leader.

Since the losers of a Chinese civil war fled to Taiwan in 1949, China hasn't recognized Taiwan as a sovereign nation and is particularly sensitive about other countries doing so. To preserve increasingly valuable strategic and economic ties to China, the United States has tiptoed around Taiwan's sovereignty for decades. It broke off diplomatic ties with the island in 1979, recognizing Beijing as representing China - what is called the "one-China" policy.

Elsewhere Sunday, Conway continued her battle with Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, Robby Mook, over pretty much everything about the election.

Both spoke with CNN's Jake Tapper on "State of the Union," just days after Conway and Clinton advisers got into a shouting match at a traditionally civil election postmortem at Harvard University.

On Sunday, they got into it about the effect that Sen. Bernie Sanders's primary challenge to Clinton had on the general election.

Mook said the campaign considered Sanders as a vice presidential running mate and reiterated that he was responsible for turning out droves of voters in the general election.

But Conway said Sanders exposed Clinton's weaknesses, particularly in Rust Belt states like Michigan, where Sanders won the Democratic primary but Trump won the general election.

"I'd also like to publicly thank Bernie Sanders for his effect on our campaign," she said. "He softened up Hillary Clinton."

Mook also asserted that Clinton's campaign was hurt by FBI Director James Comey's letter to Congress days before Election Day. The letter said the agency was examining additional emails relevant to the investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server while she was secretary of state. Mook called the letter "unprecedented" interference.

But Conway fired back that Trump's campaign was hurt even more by the release of the 2005 "Access Hollywood" video, in which Trump is recorded on a hot mic making disparaging remarks about women.

"That incident affected Donald Trump's numbers much more significantly than the Comey letter," Conway said, adding, "And early voting wasn't underway as much" at that point.

She said Trump's team scrambled to respond to the video's release.

"We were in debate prep and one of the members of the team came in and took us out," Conway said. "We didn't have the tape at the time. We had the transcript. Donald Trump decided that he wanted to put out a video apology. He did that night."



Trump's team says controversial chat with Taiwan was 'just a phone call' 12/04/16 [Last modified: Sunday, December 4, 2016 5:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. No toll lanes north of downtown Tampa in three of four interstate proposals


    TAMPA — Express lanes may not be coming to downtown Tampa after all. Or at least not to the stretch of Interstate 275 that goes north through Bearss Avenue.

    Seminole Heights resident Kimberly Overman discusses the new interstate options with V.M. Ybor resident Chris Vela (left), Hillsborough County Commissioner Pat Kemp and HNTB consultant Chloe Coney during a Tampa Bay Express meeting Monday night at the Barrymore Hotel. [CAITLIN JOHNSTON  |  Times]
  2. No lack of issues facing St. Petersburg's six council candidates


    ST. PETERSBURG — The six candidates for City Council gathered Monday evening in the very chamber to which they aspire to serve.

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates (from left)  Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless in District 2; Jerick Johnston and incumbent council member Darden Rice in District 4; and Justin Bean and Gina Driscoll of District 6. All six candidates appeared at Monday night's forum at City Hall sponsored by the League of Women Voters. [CHERIE DIEZ   |   Times]

  3. Iraq's Kurds vote on independence, raising regional fears


    IRBIL, Iraq — Iraqi Kurds voted Monday in a landmark referendum on supporting independence, a move billed by the Kurdish leadership as an exercise in self-determination but viewed as a hostile act by Iraq's central government. Neighboring Turkey even threatened a military response.

    People celebrate Monday after voting closed in a referendum on independence in Irbil, Iraq.
  4. North Korean diplomat says Trump has 'declared war'


    UNITED NATIONS — North Korea's top diplomat said Monday that President Donald Trump's weekend tweet was a "declaration of war" and North Korea has the right to retaliate by shooting down U.S. bombers, even in international airspace.

    North Korean Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho, center, speaks outside the U.N. Plaza Hotel in New York on Monday.
  5. Pinellas grants St. Pete's request to add millions to pier budget

    Local Government

    Times Staff Writer

    The Pinellas County Commission has granted St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to dedicate millions more toward the city's new pier.

    The St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday  voted 7-1 to appropriate $17.6 million for the over-water portion of the Pier District. This is a rendering of what the new Pier District could look like. [Courtesy of St. Petersburg]