Trump says China should probe Bidens
VP Pence echoes call amid Ukraine investigation
WASHINGTON — Ensnared in an impeachment inquiry over his once-secret appeal for Ukraine to investigate an American political rival, President Donald Trump openly underscored that request Thursday and flung it wider, urging international rival China to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son.
Trump and Vice President Mike Pence said Americans have a right to know about the wrongdoing the president alleges.
But Biden’s campaign chairman said Trump’s assertions show he’s scared of facing Biden in next year’s election.
House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, who has a leading role in the House’s impeachment inquiry, said Trump’s comments show “he feels he can do anything with impunity.”
Trump declared at the White House, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
He said he hadn’t previously asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to investigate the former vice president and his son Hunter, but it’s “certainly
something we could start thinking about.”
By publicly egging on China to investigate a Democratic political rival, Trump was amplifying the message he’d delivered in private to the president of Ukraine. That message, revealed by a government whistleblower, has spawned the impeachment investigation by the House into whether he abused his office for personal political gain.
Trump, who has defended his contact with Ukraine as “perfect,” went further in expanding his request to China, a communist world power that has much at stake in its relationship with the United States in an ongoing trade war.
Trump’s comments evoked his public call in 2016 for Russia to track down his then-rival Hillary Clinton’s emails — a move that was seen as an unprecedented appeal for foreign election interference.
It is a violation of federal campaign finance law to solicit anything of value from a foreign government to help a campaign.
The boldness of Trump’s call Thursday also suggests he will continue to act as if requests for other countries to investigate potential opponents in the 2020 election are normal, even in the face of broad condemnation from Democrats and some Republicans.
It’s a tactic Trump has used successfully, pushing questionable secret conversations into the open, helping to inoculate himself against charges that he is engaged in nefarious action, cover-ups or obstruction of justice.
In the case of Ukraine and China, Trump smeared Biden with unsubstantiated or false allegations of corruption. No evidence has emerged of any wrongdoing by the former vice president or his son Hunter, who had business dealings in Ukraine and China.
The president and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have for days been raising suspicions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, leaning heavily on the writings of conservative author Peter Schweizer.
On Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called the allegation that Chinese government business gave Biden’s son $1.5 billion “totally groundless.“
Trump’s unprompted reference to China on Thursday came moments after he was asked about trade negotiations with the country.
“I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous, tremendous power,” Trump said.
He later alleged without evidence that China had a “sweetheart deal“on trade with the U.S. because of the Bidens.
Speaking to reporters in Arizona, Vice President Mike Pence, whose aides had previously tried to distance him from the impeachment drama, echoed Trump’s call for investigation of the Bidens.
“The American people have a right to know if the vice president of the United States or his family profited from his position as vice president during the last administration,” he said.
Biden campaign Chairman Cedric Richmond dismissed Trump’s assertions as a reflection of the president’s concerns about facing Biden in a general election.
On Thursday, House lawmakers heard testimony from the former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, whose conversations with Trump officials and Giuliani have made him a central figure in the Ukraine inquiry.
Voker told House investigators that he warned Giuliani that he was receiving untrustworthy information from Ukrainian political figures about the Bidens, according to two people familiar with his testimony.
Volker’s testimony offers the first inside account of the administration’s efforts to press for a Ukrainian investigation into Trump’s political rival.