People with connections to the Chinese government used political donations to gain influence with President Donald Trump and the Republican Party as early as 2017, The Wall Street Journal reports. The donations, which totaled in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and were directed at Trump’s re-election campaign, earned those involved with the effort seats at Republican fundraisers and in GOP leadership meetings. The Chinese nationals involved used their connections in the Republican Party to gain information, then shared it with Chinese national-security figures, including members of the military and politicians, the Journal reports; all are reported to have said they made the donations for personal reasons or “to help their businesses.” In May 2017, Chinese nationals attended an invitation-only gathering as guests of Republican National Committee member Shawn Steel where campaign strategies were discussed. Steel told the Journal it was “false, defamatory, and offensive” to suggest he assisted Chinese efforts. The Journal said there is no evidence that Trump was aware of the Chinese contributions; federal law prohibits people who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents from political giving.
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