Amid Donald Trump’s impeachment saga over his call for Ukraine to probe a strong political threat, the president on Thursday sent a request to China, asking his counterpart Xi Jinping to investigate former US President Joe Biden.
Speaking with reporters outside the White House, Mr. Trump said, “China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”
The blunt remark contradicts his earlier statement and latter denial that he hadn’t directly asked the Chinese President, Xi, to probe Biden and his son Hunter. “It’s certainly something we could start thinking about,” Trump added.
Trump and personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have also tried to raise suspicions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, leaning on the writings of conservative author Peter Schweizer. But there is no evidence that the former vice president benefited financially from his son’s business relationships.
Trump’s requests for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to dig up dirt on Biden, as well as Giuliani’s conduct, are at the center of an intelligence community whistleblower complaint that sparked the House Democratic impeachment probe last week.
The president’s reference to China came unprompted in an unrelated question about the July 25 Ukraine call and moments after he was asked about trade negotiations with China to end a year-long trade war that has been a drag on both nation’s economies.
“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.
“You know what they call that,” Trump said. “They call that a payoff.”
Trump’s comments came as he publicly acknowledged that his message to Zelenskiy and other officials was to investigate the 2020 Democratic presidential contender. Trump’s accusations of impropriety are unsupported by evidence.
“It’s a very simple answer,” Trump said of his call with Zelenskiy. “They should investigate the Bidens.”
Trump has sought to implicate Biden and his son in the kind of corruption that has long plagued Ukraine. Hunter Biden served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv. Though the timing raised concerns among anti-corruption advocates, there has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.
The president also said that he had fired former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch because he “heard very bad things about her.”
Yovanovitch was recalled from her position in Ukraine this year amid political attacks by conservative media and other allies of Trump, including Giuliani, who targeted her with unsubstantiated accusations. They argued that she “should be part of the investigation as part of the collusion.”
Yovanovitch is scheduled to appear before three House committees on Oct. 11 as part of the impeachment inquiry.
Trump made his comments as Kurt D. Volker, who resigned last week as the Trump administration’s special envoy for Ukraine, was being interviewed behind closed doors in front of three House committees.
Volker was among the officials mentioned by name in the whistleblower report raising concerns about Trump’s July phone call in which Trump pressed Zelensky to investigate the Bidens.