Trump invokes another racist attack on his transportation secretary, baselessly linking her to Biden documents

Donald Trump has revived his thinly veiled racist attack against his former transportation secretary Elaine Chao, whom the former president baselessly connected to Joe Biden’s classified documents case because of right-wing media scrutiny involving their alleged storage in Washington DC’s Chinatown.

His statement on Truth Social from 23 January involves a series of disconnected right-wing media claims and conspiracy theories, all spuriously intertwined by Mr Trump’s ongoing attacks against Ms Chao and her husband, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Mr Trump, using what has been derided as a racist nickname, asked whether she had “anything to do with Joe Biden’s Classified Documents being sent and stored in Chinatown?” according to his post. “Her husband, the Old Broken Crow, is VERY close to Biden, the Democrats, and, of course, China. He gives them all whatever they want!” he wrote.

Chao and Trump at a roundtable discussion in Washington DC in June 2017 (AFP via Getty Images)
Chao and Trump at a roundtable discussion in Washington DC in June 2017 (AFP via Getty Images)

Ms Chao was born in Taiwan, moved to the US as a young child and was naturalised as a citizen at age 19.

Mr McConnell is frequently criticised by Mr Trump for his insufficient deference to the former president, a rivalry that has accelerated with the Republican leader’s admission that GOP officials must negotiate with the Biden administration to avoid potentially devastating consequences from the debt ceiling fight in Congress.

Right-wing media, meanwhile, has accused aides connected to the Biden administration of moving classified documents from his vice presidential office to a temporary facility in Chinatown before they were recovered at a Washington DC think tank.

A former administrative aide, Kathy Chung, has reportedly been interviewed by federal law enforcement as investigators review how the documents wound up in Mr Biden’s Delaware office and the Penn Biden Center’s facility in Washington DC.

Ms Chung – who currently serves as deputy director of protocol for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin – has faced a wave of racist attacks across social media with baseless accusations that she is working for China.

Last month, Ms Chao declined to respond to the former president’s ongoing use of a racist nickname for her and urged the media to avoid repeating it.

“I think it’s very helpful if the media does not repeat that racist tweet,” she told CNN.

“I mean, if it were the N-word or any other word, the media would not repeat it. But the media continuously repeats his racist taunt,” she added. “He’s trying to get a rise out of us … He says all sorts of outrageous things, and I don’t make a point of answering any one of them.”

Ms Chao, a Republican and the first Asian American woman to serve in a presidential cabinet, also served as the secretary of labour under George W Bush’s administration. She resigned days before the end of Mr Trump’s term in office in the wake of the attack on the US Capitol mounted by his supporters on 6 January, 2021.

“Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed,” she wrote in a letter to Transportation Department staff one day after the assault. “As I’m sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside.”

AAPI groups and civil rights organisations have roundly condemned the former president’s statements about Ms Chao and flagged them as contributing to hateful violence against Asian Americans.

“The racist slurs and hate that [Mr Trump] directed against [Ms Chao] were deplorable, disgusting, and inexcusable,” according to Committee of 100 president Zhengyu Huang said in a statement from the group of Chinese American business owners, government officials, academics and others.

“This type of language only contributes to the vicious cycle of hatred, bigotry and violence directed at Chinese Americans and the AAPI community,” he added. “An attack on Asian Americans, be it verbal or physical, is an attack on all Americans. We cannot sit idly by and allow racially charged language to go unchecked. Words have meaning, and racially charged words have consequences.”