The second-largest state-owned bank in China offered its wealthy clients the chance to dine with President Donald Trump for the price of $150,000 per ticket, Bloomberg News reported Thursday, ultimately resulting in a complaint by Trump’s reelection campaign to the Justice Department.
A branch of China Construction Bank Corp. invited high-net-worth clients willing to pay the ticket price to a May 31 dinner in Dallas, according to an invitation seen by Bloomberg News and confirmed with bank staff. Chinese participants would have the opportunity to communicate with U.S. “tycoons,” take photos with Trump and get his autograph, according to the invitation.
The news outlet also reported that some flyers advertising the deal made reference to ongoing trade friction between the U.S. and China; they also referred to Trump's apparent desire to help Chinese telecom company ZTE.
“As Sino-U.S. trade frictions have eased recently, Chinese businessmen including representatives from ZTE were invited to Dallas to attend President Trump’s dinner, and thus discuss cooperation and development with U.S. political and business elites,” the invitation said.
The fundraising effort – hosted jointly by the president and the Republican National Committee and costing Americans $50,000 to attend – cannot legally accept foreign donations, which means only bank customers holding U.S. passports can participate.
After being alerted to the issue by Bloomberg News, Trump campaign officials reportedly brought it to the attention of Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“We do not accept foreign donations of any kind,” a Trump campaign official said in a statement, declining to be identified by name. “Since it has been brought to our attention, we have notified the appropriate authority about this unauthorized flier.”
The Shenzhen branch of China Construction Bank told Bloomberg News that tickets were acquired from travel agency VVISA and that both the travel agency and the bank would receive commission from ticket sales.
VVISA said the invitations were initiated by a U.S. foundation and a Chinese entrepreneurs group and assisted by VVISA, with no relation to Construction Bank. The event is still proceeding and VVISA is cooperating with many institutions, it said in the statement, adding that participants are paying on their own.