House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) on Monday condemned President Trump for undermining the United States' moral authority after he told Axios in an interview that he delayed imposing sanctions against Chinese officials to facilitate a trade deal with Beijing.

Driving the news: Asked why he held off on imposing Treasury sanctions against Chinese officials involved with mass detention camps for Uighurs and other Muslim minorities, Trump told Axios: "Well, we were in the middle of a major trade deal."

  • "And I made a great deal, $250 billion potentially worth of purchases. And by the way, they're buying a lot, you probably have seen."
  • Trump continued: "And when you're in the middle of a negotiation and then all of a sudden you start throwing additional sanctions on — we've done a lot. I put tariffs on China, which are far worse than any sanction you can think of."

Why it matters: The U.S. could "lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights" if it doesn't address the atrocities in China, Pelosi wrote in a news release Monday.

  • The comments came days after Trump signed the Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in both the House and Senate.
  • But Pelosi argued that the action "rings extraordinarily hollow in light of his clearly stated lack of interest in standing up to Beijing.”

What she's saying:

“Congress on a bipartisan basis has long spoken with one voice in defense of those persecuted by Beijing and will continue to do so.  If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial issues, we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights any place in the world.
“President Trump’s admission that he is looking the other way and enabling one of the worst human rights atrocities of our time in order to ink a trade deal is appalling.

Go deeper: Read more from Trump's interview with Axios

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