US President Donald Trump, ensnared in an impeachment inquiry for allegedly pressuring Ukraine to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, says China should also conduct a probe.
- Donald Trump is being investigated over a complaint he asked the Ukrainian President to investigate Joe Biden and his son
- Mr Trump told reporters China should investigate the Bidens
- China says allegations that Hunter Biden was given $US1.5 billion are “totally groundless”
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr Trump said in remarks to reporters outside the White House on Thursday (local time).
Mr Trump said he had not directly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to investigate Mr Biden and his son Hunter but said it was “certainly something we could start thinking about”.
By publicly egging China on to investigate a Democratic political rival, Mr Trump appeared to confirm making the same request to Ukraine’s President — a conversation which has led to the impeachment investigation by the House of Representatives.
Mr Trump has defended his contact with the Ukrainian President as “perfect” and now is giving a broad airing to a similar appeal to China, a nation that has much at stake in its relationship with the US in an ongoing trade war.
Mr Trump’s comments evoked his public call in 2016 for Russia to release Hillary Clinton’s emails if they had obtained them by hacking — which US intelligence agencies later determined to be the case.
The allegations against Hunter and Joe Biden were made without evidence of wrongdoing. (Reuters: Carlos Barria)
In the case of both Ukraine and China, Mr Trump has made his allegations against Mr Biden without evidence of wrongdoing.
The President and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani also have tried to raise suspicions about Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China, leaning heavily on the writings of conservative author Peter Schweizer.
Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, labelled the allegation that a Chinese government business gave Mr Biden’s son $US1.5 billion ($2.23 billion) “totally groundless”.
Mr Trump’s alleged pressuring of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens, as well as Mr Giuliani’s conduct, are at the centre of an intelligence community whistleblower’s complaint that sparked the House Democratic impeachment inquiry last week.
The President’s reference to China came unprompted when he answered a question about the July 25 Ukraine call and moments after he was asked about trade negotiations with China.
“I have a lot of options on China, but if they don’t do what we want, we have tremendous, tremendous power,” Mr Trump said.
He later alleged without evidence that China had a “sweetheart deal” on trade with the US because of the Bidens.
“You know what they call that,” Mr Trump said. “They call that a payoff.”
Mr Biden’s campaign chairman Cedric Richmond dismissed Mr Trump’s assertions as a reflection of the President’s concerns about facing Mr Biden in his re-election campaign.
“This President is scared, and he’s acting out,” the Louisiana congressman said.
House Intelligence Committee chairman Adam Schiff, who is taking a leading role in the impeachment inquiry, said Mr Trump’s comments showed “he feels he can do anything with impunity”.
Federal Election Commission chairwoman Ellen Weintraub responded to Mr Trump’s remarks, tweeting a reminder that it was a violation of campaign finance law for anyone to “solicit, accept or receive” anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a US election.
The agency polices campaign finance laws. But after a recent resignation, its board does not have enough commissioners to legally meet and take enforcement action.