Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas, whose law firm reportedly played a pivotal role in orchestrating the controversial phone call between President-elect Donald Trump and Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen, has a financial stake in Taiwan's relationship with the White House.
On Dec. 6, it was discovered that Alston & Bird LLP, the law firm Dole heads, was paid $20,000 a month by the Taiwanese government throughout 2016, BuzzFeed News reports.
On Dec. 3, Trump broke decades of U.S. foreign policy precedent by speaking to the Taiwanese president by phone. Since 1979, the U.S. has not officially communicated with Taiwan, adhering to the "one China" policy, which stipulates Taiwan is not an independent country but an extension of China.
The phone exchange sparked immediate controversy, with critics accusing Trump of imperiling U.S. relations with China. Meanwhile, the business mogul's allies have praised the decision as a deft strategic maneuver.
On Dec. 6, former Republican Rep. Newt Gingrich of Georgia told Fox News that Trump was "sending a very tough signal to Beijing: 'This ain't the old order, we're not gonna let you push us around. You don't dictate to us.'"
Robert Daly, the director of the Woodrow Wilson Center's Kissinger Institute on China and the United States, warned that violating the "one China" policy could lead to global instability.
"Well, Taiwan is China's core interest, and it defines a core interest as something that it is willing to go to war over," Daly told NPR. He added that Trump's phone call with Tsai "could be dangerous."
President Tsai has asserted that the communication between her and Trump had only been a courtesy call.
"One phone call does not mean a policy shift," Tsai told USA Today. "We all see the value of stability in the region."
On Dec. 5, Dole signaled that his law firm had played a crucial role in orchestrating the phone call between Trump and Tsai.
"It fair to say that we may have had some influence," Dole told The Wall Street Journal, reports Talking Points Memo.
An anonymous source from within the Trump transition team stated that Dole had personally arranged the phone call.
Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, BuzzFeed News was able to examine Alston & Bird LLP's records, finding that the law firm had been paid thousands of dollars by the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office over the years to lobby on behalf of Taiwanese interests in Washington, D.C.
TECRO is a proxy for a Taiwanese embassy in the U.S. Documents show Dole's law firm had agreed to lobby on behalf of Taiwan's interests and had been paid $20,000 per month in 2016.
The Obama administration has spoken with officials from Beijing twice since the controversial phone call. On Dec. 6, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that Trump's maneuver had indeed raised tensions between the U.S. and China.
"Some of the progress we have made in our relationship with China could be undermined by this issue flaring up," Earnest said, according to CNN.