Trump pledges probe into Google ‘treason’ claim – By Cristiano Lima (Politico) / July 16 2019
President Donald Trump on Tuesday said his administration will look into tech investor Peter Thiel’s accusation that Google may be committing treason through its work in China, suggesting he may urge the Justice Department to launch an investigation into the matter.
Thiel, a prominent Trump supporter and Facebook board member, on Sunday accused Google of “engag[ing] in the seemingly treasonous decision to work with the Chinese military and not with the US military,” according to Axios. Thiel later criticized the company’s approach to China as “very peculiar” during a Monday night interview on Fox News.
Trump pointed to Thiel’s critiques in a tweet early Tuesday, adding, “A great and brilliant guy who knows this subject better than anyone! The Trump Administration will take a look!”
The president later told reporters at the White House that he “would like to recommend to the various agencies, including perhaps our attorney general … to maybe take a look” at what he called a “very strong charge” by Thiel.
“It’s a big statement when you say that Google is involved with China in not a very positive way for our country,” he said. “So I think we’ll all look at that. I know that our other agencies will be looking at it. We’ll see if there’s any truth to it.”
The pledges came despite the president already seemingly coming away satisfied from a March meeting with Google CEO Sundar Pichai on the company’s endeavors in China. After the sitdown, Trump tweeted that Pichai “stated strongly that he is totally committed to the U.S. Military, not the Chinese Military.”
At a Tuesday Senate Judiciary subcommittee hearing convened to probe Google’s search and content moderation practices, company public policy chief Karan Bhatia firmly pushed back against Thiel and Trump’s assertions.
Addressing questions from Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Bhatia said Google has “absolutely not” found evidence of Chinese government infiltration of the company or its data; allowed considerations involving work in China to influence any decisions on U.S. government contracts; or turned a blind eye to any leaks of Google software or data to Chinese intelligence.
“Fundamentally in China we actually do very little today,” Bhatia said later in the session, after Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) hammered the company for past efforts to do business in China.
Thiel offered no explanation for his charges of treason, but his comments echoed criticism aired earlier this year by some defense officials and lawmakers. They hammered Google for pulling back on U.S. defense contracting over the last year while still pursuing business and research interests in China.
Simply operating in China is tantamount to supporting the country’s military, given the Chinese government’s extensive surveillance capabilities and tight control over businesses in the country, the officials argued.
President Donald Trump on Tuesday responded to claims that Google may be committing treason through its work in China, tweeting, “The Trump Administration will take a look!” | Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images