President Donald Trump intends to intensify enforcement of food safety regulations as a cudgel in international trade negotiations, according to leaked recordings of a what appears to be a phone conversation between Trump and Wilbur Ross, his nominee for Commerce Secretary. During the conversation, which was recorded in December, the then-president-elect also advocated a 10 percent across-the-board tariff on all foreign imports, an issue on which his administration has adopted numerous different positions and which Speaker Paul Ryan has flatly rejected.
The proposals came during an apparent phone conversation that was captured on video and provided to Gizmodo via SecureDrop, a portal permitting whistleblowers and sources to reach us while remaining anonymous.
The videos don’t show Trump or Ross, and appear to have been recorded in an office where Trump’s voice could be heard on speaker phone and Ross’ voice was audible from a neighboring room. Metadata associated with the files indicates that they were recorded at the same location as the midtown Manhattan offices of Ross’ private equity firm at roughly 10:25 on the morning of December 13, 2016—about a half-hour after Kanye West’s famous visit to Trump Tower. (Later that afternoon, according to the president-elect pool reports, Ross visited Trump for an in-person meeting.) Neither the White House nor Ross responded to a request for comment from Gizmodo.
At one point in the conversation, Trump and Ross discuss the possibility of using safety regulations on food imports as a mechanism to pressure foreign companies or governments.