Republicans are slamming President Biden’s appointment to oversee the disbursement of the Democrats’ so-called Inflation Reduction Act over his close ties to a top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official.
Former Obama and Clinton administration official John Podesta, who was tapped by Biden earlier this month to serve as senior adviser to the president for clean energy innovation and implementation, will be in charge of allocating $370 billion in taxpayer funds from the Democrats’ climate and health care spending bill, which passed in August without any Republican support.
Fox News Digital reported Monday that Podesta has close ties to Tung Chee-hwa, a top CCP official, referring to him as his “friend” and taking several phone calls from him between 2015 and 2016 while serving as the chairman for Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign, according to emails.
Podesta said he has the “highest regard” for Tung, who has been serving as a vice chairman of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) since the early 2000s. Tung’s CPPCC is a “central part” of China’s united front system, which works to “co-opt and neutralize sources of potential opposition to the policies and authority of its ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP),” according to a 2018 report by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, a U.S. government agency.
“Under no circumstances should hundreds of billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars be at the discretion of ANYONE with ties to, or in this case an outright shill for, the Communist Party of China – a regime that is dead set on global dominance and has started a new cold war with the United States,” Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC), said in a statement to Fox News Digital on Tuesday. “If Biden truly cares about putting American interests, economy and national security first, he’d retract this appointment immediately.”
“It’s no surprise Biden ‘climate czar’ John Podesta has pen pals in the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., chairman of the Senate Republican Conference and ranking member of the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, told Fox News Digital. “His anti-American climate agenda is terrible for the working men and women whose electric bills are predictably skyrocketing. We need less climate comrades in the White House and more focus on unleashing American energy to lower energy prices for families here at home.”
“Joe Biden is compromised,” Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-N.Y., chairwoman of the House Republican Conference, told Fox News Digital. “We already knew about his son Hunter’s corrupt business dealings with Chinese companies, but this is one more example of someone close to this president having deeply concerning ties to the Chinese Communist Party. There must be transparency over Biden’s so-called clean energy czar’s management of taxpayer dollars. Make no mistake, House Republicans will hold the Biden administration accountable for its ties with the CCP for the sake of our economic and national security.”
“Disappointed but unsurprised that the Biden administration, which has tried to destroy American energy at every turn, would choose an ally of the CCP to lead their clean energy initiative,” Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Ind., chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), told Fox News Digital.
Biden announced Podesta as his new clean energy czar on Sept 2, saying his “deep roots in climate and clean energy policy” will help the administration “hit the ground running” on implementing the sweeping clean energy provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Fox News Digital reported Monday that four days after Podesta left the White House as a counselor to President Obama in February 2015, his assistant, Eryn Sepp, informed him that he would be receiving a call on his “house line” from the CPPCC’s Tung.
A few weeks later, Sepp and one of Tung’s assistants exchanged emails to set up another call between Podesta and Tung in early March 2015, a month before Clinton would announce her candidacy.
In June 2015, Podesta said he had another call with Tung and asked Melanie Hart, then-director of China policy at the Center for American Progress (CAP), the think tank Podesta founded, for an update on who they had requested meetings with in China because he said that Tung could “probably be helpful.”
Hart, who is currently Biden’s China policy coordinator for the Office of the Undersecretary of State, listed two CCP officials and said she “shared the three names above with [Tung’s] team so they are in the loop. We are also working to confirm a good slot for a breakfast or lunch meeting with you and [Tung].”
In a September 2015 email to Alex Cherin, a partner at Englander Knabe & Allen, Podesta referred to Tung as his “friend from Hong Kong” whom he met with the week prior. Cherin’s email communications with Podesta do not appear to be related to any of Podesta’s emails regarding Tung or the China-U.S. Exchange Foundation (CUSEF), which Tung founded.
“Had dinner with him last Thursday,” Podesta wrote.
Podesta and Tung also co-authored a paper for CAP in December 2013 that called for the strengthening of “major power relations” between the U.S. and China. In addition to Tung being a top official in the CPPCC, he also founded CUSEF, which has bankrolled several American universities, think tanks and nonprofit organizations, and has received increased scrutiny over the last few years for its activity with the CCP’s “united front” system, the sprawling Chinese Communist Party apparatus that conducts influence operations abroad, the Washington Free Beacon reported. Tung continues to be listed as chairman of the foundation on the organization’s website.
In May 2013, Tung and Podesta spoke at a luncheon hosted by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), which included China’s ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai.
“For the last four years though, Center for American Progress and China-U.S. Exchange Foundation have co-hosted a US.-China track II dialogue, and we continue to host these dialogues on an annual basis,” Podesta said. “I have the highest regard for C.H. Tung’s tireless efforts to bring our two nations closer together. He is always looking ahead to anticipate emerging challenges in the U.S.-China relations and to figure out what he can do to make those challenges more manageable.”
Later during the event, Podesta walked up to the mic to introduce Tung and said he wanted to join all the people in the room for thanking Tung for his “leadership,” prompting Tung to later thank Podesta for his “inspirational talk.”
Podesta also had multiple calls with Tung during the latter part of 2015 and early 2016, including calls in July, August, September, January and March, according to Wikileaks emails reviewed by Fox News Digital. The Daily Caller reported that Podesta is currently sitting on the “U.S.-China 2022 Steering Committee” of CUSEF and has penned at least three pieces on CUSEF’s website.
The failed Hillary Clinton campaign chairman isn’t the only Biden administration official with ties to Tung. Biden’s staff secretary, Neera Tanden, who formerly served as the president and CEO of CAP before joining the Biden administration, was also tied to CUSEF.
During a 2014 CAP event in Washington, D.C., that featured Tung as a speaker, Tanden highlighted how it had “become clear” that China and the United States were “interdependent” and said since 2008 CAP and CUSEF have organized five track II dialogues. Tanden mentioned Tung’s name twice during her opening remarks.
Later during the event, Tung praised CAP and said he was “delighted” to be back. He said it was in 2005 that he began exploring the “landscape in Washington” because he wanted to find a way to develop a relationship between the countries and found that CAP’s position on China-U.S. relations was the most “progressive” of the D.C.-based think tanks.
“You were thinking ahead of the curve of most of your peers, and I was really impressed and you may have not known things then, but I was trying to court you and your colleagues, trying to work together with you,” Tung said. “I’m delighted to be back at Center for American Progress.”
He went on to say that the relationship between CAP and CUSEF has been “very, very fruitful” dialogue, adding that he is really excited that the dialogue is “reaching climax,” referring to his appearance at the event and the high-level discussions they were having. He also alluded to Podesta without mentioning his name, saying, “We miss the other person who is the architect of all this, but he’s now – I’m afraid he has a better job to do, so he’s not with us today,” referring to his role in the White House.
When reached for comment on Monday’s story about whether the White House was concerned about ties between CUSEF/Tung and some of the aforementioned officials in the Biden administration, a White House official told Fox News Digital that “White House employees are required to step down from outside positions and he will have a two year recusal under the Pledge from all of his previous affiliations.” Fox News Digital followed up to clarify whether Podesta would still be allowed to communicate with Tung, but the White House did not respond.
In response to Monday’s story, a CAP spokesperson told Fox News Digital, “The Center for American Progress is an independent, nonpartisan policy institute that is dedicated to improving the lives of all Americans. At no point has CAP funded research with CUSEF. CAP has engaged in dialogues with a variety of stakeholders, even where and as we may disagree, to try to work toward better outcomes for our country, our world, and our shared climate concerns. CAP strongly supports greater transparency regarding foreign government funding sources across all think tanks. In fact, CAP’s most recent China strategy calls for the Internal Revenue Service to incorporate foreign funding.”
CUSEF did not respond to a Fox News Digital request for comment on Monday’s story.
“Democrats’ radical Green New Deal initiatives benefit China so it comes as no surprise that President Biden’s new green energy czar has a cozy relationship with the CCP,” Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., ranking member of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, said in a statement to Fox News Digital on Tuesday. “China monopolizes many of the components needed for so-called green energy which makes the United States dependent on this hostile nation for the implementation of Democrats’ anti-energy agenda. Energy security is critical to national security and the Biden Administration must unleash domestic energy production at home instead of relying on hostile nations like China for its radical climate policies.”
“The selection of a CCP sympathizer to dole out $370 billion in taxpayer-funded green energy subsidies is just the latest example of the Biden Administration’s suspect relations with Chinese Communists,” Rep. Mike Johnson, R-La., vice chairman of the House Republican Conference, told Fox News Digital. “This should concern every American. As voters head to the polls in November, they should remember who stood for this green energy bailout and who stood against it.”
“John Podesta’s appointment to lead Joe Biden’s new $370 billion climate slush fund should be setting off alarm bells all over Washington,” Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., told Fox News Digital. “This is a man who runs a think tank funded by Big Tech and foreign governments, spent years working for dark money climate activists, and, in his own words, holds CCP propagandists in the ‘highest regard.’ And now he’ll be in charge of doling out billions of dollars to his friends and political allies. John Podesta must step down immediately.”
“President Biden surrounds himself with people who are connected the Chinese Communist Party,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., told Fox News Digital. “It is naive and dangerous. Podesta’s past praise of Tung should be disqualifying. We need people in government who truly understand the threat of Communist China, not those who are eager to make friends with a genocidal regime.”
“Top members of the Biden administration like John Podesta have been palling around with the Chinese Communist Party for years,” Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., told Fox News Digital. “The Biden administration isn’t fighting the China Lobby – his administration is the China Lobby.”
“It’s unsurprising that Biden officials are entangled with the CCP,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told Fox News Digital. “China poses the single greatest geopolitical threat to the United States and yet the entire Democrat Party is structurally pro-China. Their Big Tech and Hollywood donors, to say nothing of Big Business and Big Universities, float on Chinese money.”
“Ties between the Biden White House and the CCP continue,” Rep. Greg Steube, R-Fla., told Fox News Digital. “China is our number one national security threat and it’s a threat to our security and safety that the Biden White House continues to fraternize with our adversary. Further, it’s incredibly concerning that Podesta will be overseeing the distribution of taxpayer funds given his compromised relationship with CCP officials. Podesta should take notes from the lesson Biden’s Energy Secretary learned after giving one million barrels of our Strategic Petroleum Reserves to the communist Chinese.”
Fox News Digital’s Cameron Cawthorne and Haley Chi-Sing contributed to this report.