When the president first announced a plan to sell the nation’s television broadcasting network to a Chinese media conglomerate in April, it was hailed as a game-changer for a struggling cable TV industry.
The deal, worth more than $7 billion, was supposed to help the White Houses TV business, which has been in the doldrums amid a downturn in consumer interest in cable TV.
But as Trump and his allies have pushed the deal forward, Trump has been using his executive powers to push the television company to sell off the company’s assets and move its operations to a state-run Chinese telecoms operator, which would give Trump an additional $1 billion to invest in his television empire.
In August, the president sent a letter to President Xi Jinping asking him to make a deal with the new operator, but Xi had not yet agreed to the offer.
Trump’s moves have led some media executives and cable TV executives to question the president’s motives.
“There is nothing in the letter that has changed the fact that the President’s administration is trying to sell TV,” said Eric M. Anderson, a former executive vice president at Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is currently the lead carrier for the Fox network.
“The only thing that has really changed is the president.”
Sinclair owns the network, which also has a joint venture with NBCUniversal, but has also invested in a number of cable channels.
The White House has said that the proposed deal would allow Sinclair to build a new, more robust, and more diverse lineup of programming, but Sinclair executives have also raised questions about the potential cost of doing so.
Sinclair has argued that the cost of moving operations from the United States to a new Chinese telecom could be $1.4 billion, or $7,500 per subscriber.
The proposed deal has also drawn criticism from the heads of other major cable networks, which say that the deal would hurt their business, particularly with more than one network operating in the same market.
“We have to figure out how to compete,” said Fox Networks president Greg Gianforte, who was ousted by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan in a special election in Montana earlier this month.
The Fox deal would have required the WhiteHouse to approve the deal on behalf of Sinclair, which in turn would have needed to approve any deal with Fox itself.
“Sinclair’s proposal is a bad deal for American consumers and for the cable industry,” said John Malone, the chairman and CEO of Liberty Media, a cable TV company that also owns CNN.
“This would be the worst deal for the American people.”
The deal was first reported by the Washington Post, which cited anonymous people who have direct knowledge of the talks between the Trump administration and Sinclair.
The Times reported that the Whitehouse was also negotiating with another Chinese company, and that Trump’s team had asked Sinclair for additional concessions to help it get a deal through Congress.
The companies declined to comment.
“It’s clear that the president is not interested in negotiating with a cable company,” said Andrew Stern, a senior White House adviser for telecommunications.
“He’s not interested.”
The WhiteHouse has also said that it would allow the WhiteShanghai Group, a privately owned Chinese telecommunications company, to acquire more than 90% of the company, which operates in China and is the second-largest provider of mobile broadband services.
The Chinese government has long argued that it owns all of the TV network.
But Sinclair and the other media companies have said that they have no such ownership stake in the company.
The president’s move to sell Sinclair, and the WhiteShenghai deal, are part of a broader effort by the White Trump administration to promote his vision for the country.
Trump has called for more economic development and a renewed emphasis on national security, as well as increased foreign investment.
The deals have raised questions in the media industry and among some conservatives who have long viewed the White administration as too cozy with the Chinese government.
“If you’re looking for a way to do this, you’re going to go after the Chinese,” said Frank Bruni, the editor-in-chief of the conservative Weekly Standard.
“And that’s what this is.”