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Trump takes a strong stance against (Chinese) election meddling.

Thomas Peter-Pool/Getty

Speaking at the United Nations, President Donald Trump accused China of meddling in the American election to defeat the Republican Party in the upcoming midterms. “Regrettably, we found that China has been attempting to interfere in our upcoming election against my administration,” Trump said. “They do not want me or us to win because I am the first president ever to challenge China on trade.”

The president had been gesturing in the direction of this accusation for the last month, but this is the most forthright articulation of it. The factual basis for the claim is that China and the EU seem to be applying retaliatory tariffs on industries largely focused in Republican districts, perhaps as a way to get the GOP to stand up against Trump’s protectionism.

On August 18, Trump had tweeted:

The following day, National Security Advisor John Bolton said on ABC News that “I can say definitively that it’s a sufficient national security concern about Chinese meddling, Iranian meddling and North Korean meddling that we’re taking steps to try and prevent it.”

As Daniel Dale of The Toronto Star suggests, Trump’s remarks might not just be about the trade war with China but could also be tied to the ongoing investigation into possible Russian interference in the 2016 election. By accusing China of interfering via tariffs, Trump is watering down the concept of foreign intervention.