China’s Sanctions on Former Trump Administration Officials an ‘Escalation’: Sen. Cotton

January 24, 2021 Updated: January 24, 2021

The Chinese regime’s sanctions against former Trump administration officials is an escalation that must be met with a reciprocal response, Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) said Sunday.

“These sanctions against former Trump administration officials are a dangerous and insidious escalation of China’s effort to influence American policy,” Cotton said on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.”

The Chinese Communist Party, on the same day President Joe Biden was inaugurated, sanctioned 28 Trump administration officials, including former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former national security adviser Robert O’Brien.

Former President Donald Trump and his administration were notably tough on China, which U.S. intelligence officials and Chinese state media—said preferred Biden to win the 2020 election over Trump.

Cotton, who was sanctioned last year, said he initially laughed off the fresh sanctions.

“But these sanctions apply not only to these individuals, they apply to any company or institution that associates with them. Now, this is not designed so much to punish Trump administration officials for taking a tough line on China, but to send a shot across the bow to Biden administration officials,” he said.

Many former government officials like to write memoirs. China threatened publishing houses that give contracts to officials they sanctioned with cutting off access to their market for all their books.

Cotton called for the Biden administration to announce reciprocal sanctions. Biden administration officials also need to find out if the China ambassador was involved in it, and, if so, kick him out of the country, the senator said, adding, “We cannot tolerate China trying to influence government officials at the highest levels of American government.”

Biden’s National Security Council spokeswoman said on the same day the sanctions were announced that the timing of the imposition “is seemingly an attempt to play to partisan divides.”

“Americans of both parties should criticize this unproductive and cynical move. President Biden looks forward to working with leaders in both parties to position America to out-compete China,” she added.

The White House hasn’t appeared to comment on the sanctions since then. The White House didn’t respond to an inquiry on Sunday.

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber