Chao’s statement is an extremely rare case of the former transportation secretary getting into the political tangle that her former boss has tended around her since the end of her administration. It suggests that discomfort with Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric has reached a new level amid several high-profile shootings of Asian Americans.

On at least half a dozen occasions, Trump has taken to his social media platform, Truth Social, to criticize McConnell’s leadership and suggest, among other things, that he is conflicted because of his wife’s connection to China. Last fall, in a message widely seen by both Republicans and Democrats as a threat, he said McConnell «has a DEATH WISH.»

But the personal attacks on Chao have stood out above the rest, both for their overt racism and for the relatively little pushback they’ve received. McConnell and his team have not responded. And on the rare occasions that he’s been asked about them, Chao has begged for reporters. not to amplify the comments Other Republicans have dismissed the attacks as Trump just being Trump. The former president “likes to give people nicknames,” the senator said. rick scott (R-Florida) said in October on CNN.

Chao immigrated to the US as a child from Taiwan and is one of six daughters of Ruth Mulan Chu and James SC Chao, the founder of Foremost Group, a large New York-based shipping company. She later graduated from Harvard Business School and served in several Republican administrations, and was the first Asian-American woman in a presidential cabinet as George W. Bush’s Secretary of Labor and Trump’s Secretary of Transportation.

Chao’s personal history played an important role in his tenure. She covered the airwaves, especially with the local media, speaking about her immigration story and the promise the United States holds for others in faraway places.

Her bureaucratic skills were at times put to the test under Trump, as she routinely criticized her husband even while she served in his cabinet. Chao said at the time that she remained loyal to both men despite their differences.

“I support my man, both of them,” Chao told reporters at Trump Tower following a 2017 dispute between Trump and McConnell.

But Chao reached his breaking point after January 6. He resigned from the cabinet, saying the riots «troubled me deeply in a way that I just can’t put aside.»

The statement did not sit well with Trump, who once praised her work in his cabinet and began including her in his attacks on McConnell. Her attacks have “baffled” Chao, according to a former senior administration official who remains close to her. But she initially decided not to respond because she just «creates another news cycle.»

“Especially for Asians, it is essential to have filial piety: to honor the family name. And that is a blow not only to her personal reputation but also to her name and her family,” said the former official, who was granted anonymity to speak candidly about the former secretary. «He is offensive and a stain on everything he accomplished for Asian Americans.»

Steven Cheung, Trump’s spokesman who is Asian-American, said in a statement that the former president’s criticism of Chao focused on his family’s potential financial conflicts, not race. Chao has been vetted by her family’s shipping business. Although a inspector general report published after Trump left office did not make a formal finding of any ethics violations, it did detail multiple instances in which Chao’s office handled business related to his family’s company.

“People should stop feigning outrage and engaging in controversies that only exist in their heads,” Cheung said. «What is really concerning is his family’s deeply troubling ties to communist China, which have undermined America’s economic and national security.»

But few outside Trump’s inner circle dispute that the former president’s posts about Chao are racist. And privately, Republican officials have expressed concern that his rhetoric is not mere background noise, but an illustration of the way he has fundamentally altered the spectrum of accepted political discourse.

“Trump’s repeated racist attacks on Elaine Chao fall short of the position she once held and are particularly despicable at this time when the Asian American community has been subjected to threats and harassment,” said Alyssa Farah, former government official turned in criticism of Trump.

Trump’s latest attack, a suggestion that Chao may have been responsible for President Joe Biden bringing classified documents with him to his post-vice-presidential office in DC’s Chinatown neighborhood, came amid a series of shootings. Targeted at Asian American communities. All this has taken place in the context of a increase in violence aimed at Asian-Americans.

While fighting the rise of China has become a rare issue with bipartisan support, there is concern among lawmakers that anti-China attitudes could contribute to violence against Asian Americans. Some Republicans say Trump’s repeated and personal attacks in particular have hurt the party’s efforts to make more gains among Asian-American voters, a task that the Trump 2020 campaign itself sought to undertake.

Trump’s anti-Asian rhetoric has been directed at others beyond Chao. Weekend, he went after A Biden aide, Kathy Chung, is believed to have been responsible for packing up the then-Vice President’s materials as he left office in 2017. He has said that Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin’s name “sounds Chinese” (Youngkin is not Chinese). He has imitated Asian accents. when talking about Asian leaders. Have teasing asian accents in the electoral campaign; accused a reporter of asking a «nasty question» about Covid tests while implying that he was doing it due to his Asian origin. Y he called Covid “Kung-flu”.

Lanhee Chen, a Stanford University professor who ran unsuccessfully as the Republican nominee for California controller last fall, said Trump’s language has already damaged the GOP’s ability to reach voters.

“I saw it firsthand when I was a candidate,” said Chen, the son of immigrants from Taiwan. “I talked to a lot of Asian-American voters in my state and the feedback I got was, ‘What you represent is great, I love the vision, but I don’t know if I can vote for someone in the same party as Donald Trump because of all the real comments. , and in other perceived cases, toward Asian Americans in recent years.”

«And the attacks on Elaine Chao are really puzzling given that she did a very good job in her administration and accomplished a lot and benefited her own presidency.»

Asian Americans are among the fastest growing voting blocs in the United States, accounting for 5.5 percent of the entire population eligible to vote, according to Pew Research Center. Those numbers are only expected to grow.

Asian-American voters tend to lean Democratic, but the Republican Party has invested millions to reach them in states like California, Texas, Nevada and Arizona. In an opinion piece before midtermsRNC Chair Ronna McDaniel advocated for Asian Americans to join the Republican Party over shared concerns about the economy and public safety.

But while Trump’s comments haven’t helped with coalition formation, some Republicans predict it will mostly backfire on him.

«It’s a strange obsession that he has with her,» said Scott Jennings, a Republican strategist and former McConnell adviser. «If you heard someone on the street making these rants, you would expect to see them in a sandwich board or a straitjacket.»