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Bob Dole Lobbied Trump Team On Outreach To Taiwan

Dec 7, 2016
Originally published on December 7, 2016 4:56 pm
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Another thing that Branstad will have to address if he's confirmed as ambassador to China is his new boss's approach to Taiwan. The president-elect shocked China and many in Washington when he spoke with the president of Taiwan on the phone last week. At the time, Trump transition staffers and Taiwanese officials described it as a small courtesy. It may also have been part of a lobbying strategy engineered by a quintessential Washington insider. NPR's Peter Overby reports.

PETER OVERBY, BYLINE: Former Senator Robert Dole has been a war hero, a lion of the Senate and the Republican nominee for president in 1996. He was also an early supporter of Donald Trump even when other Republican leaders were still wary. Back in June, Dole explained his reasons on NPR's MORNING EDITION.

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ROBERT DOLE: Some Republicans say, well, I can't vote for Trump. I have an obligation to the party. I mean what am I going to do? I can't vote for George Washington.

OVERBY: But here's one other thing about Bob Dole. Since 1998, he's been the Taipei government's man in Washington - in the official jargon, a registered foreign agent. The law requires foreign agents to file itemized lists of what they do for their clients. Last week, Dole sent in his regular six-month report. It shows the phone call wasn't a one-off event.

For some time now, Dole has been arranging contacts between Taiwanese officials and Trump campaign advisers. He facilitated a Taiwan delegation's attendance at the convention when Trump was nominated, and he helped them get favorable language into the Republican platform.

As for that phone call last week, it came after the report's end date. Dole told The New York Times he helped arrange it, too. Dole's office couldn't be reached for comment today. Jordan Tama is a foreign policy professor at American University.

JORDAN TAMA: Dole was pushing on a somewhat open door because talking to the leader of Taiwan was consistent with Trump's stance on China and also his willingness to, you know, ignore what might be the conventional wisdom.

OVERBY: Even with a somewhat open door, Dole was in a perfect position to give it a shove. Aside from his 18 years lobbying for Taiwan, he was also the only Republican former president or nominee to endorse Trump this year. Again, Jordan Tama...

TAMA: Trump, we have good reason to think, values and rewards loyalty, and so the fact that Dole had endorsed him certainly would be something that Trump would be aware of.

OVERBY: Dole didn't report contacting any other presidential campaign on behalf of Taipei. In the last 12 months reported, Taipei's Washington office paid his law firm $200,000. Peter Overby, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.