War Stories

Trump Calls Out Election Meddling—by China

This looks like an attempt to shift the blame if the Republicans lose badly in November.

President Donald Trump chairs a United Nations Security Council meeting.
President Donald Trump chairs a United Nations Security Council meeting on Wednesday in New York City.
Spencer Platt/Getty Images

President Donald Trump signaled Wednesday that he would blame China if the Republicans do poorly in November’s midterm elections.

He unfurled the scenario Wednesday morning while chairing a session of the United Nations Security Council. The topic of the meeting was nonproliferation and weapons of mass destruction. But in the middle of his opening statement, Trump said, “China is going to interfere in the 2018 election, against my administration. They do not want me to win because I am the first President to challenge them on trade.”

Trump said nothing about the all-but-universally held conclusion that Russia hacked the 2016 election in a way that helped Trump himself win the presidency. He said nothing about Russia at all—not even about its use of chemical weapons at an ex-spy now living in England. (French President Emmanuel Macron mentioned, and denounced, that incident in his speech.)

This was not the first time Trump floated a trial balloon of blaming China for what could be the Republicans’ potential loss of the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate. On Sept. 18, he tweeted:

He posted that tweet shortly after China threatened to impose tariffs on American agricultural goods in response to Trump’s placing tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese products. His implication was that, given farmers’ great loyalty and patriotic self-sacrifice, the Republicans’ loss of those states could only be explained by Chinese interference. He also seemed to suggest that, if Russia did tilt the last election, China’s rigging of the next election somehow equalizes matters.

As with many odd things that Trump says and writes, it is unclear whether he believes this or whether he is merely trying to plant conspiratorial ideas in the minds of his followers. Either way, the tweet—bolstered by his more blanket line in his speech at the Security Council—reveals a man incapable of admitting defeat or accepting responsibility for it.