President Donald Trump said Thursday that China’s Xi Jinping should consider investigating Joe Biden and his son after again calling on Ukraine’s president to re-open an investigation into one of his top political rivals.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump told reporters Thursday as he left the White House. “Because what happened in China was just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine.”
Trump’s remarks came after he reiterated his call for Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to start an investigation of the Bidens. Trump’s allegation that Joe Biden, as vice president, tried to shield his son Hunter from a Ukrainian investigation of a company that employed him, has been discredited.
China’s foreign ministry in Beijing didn’t immediately respond to a faxed request for comment Friday.
The U.S. House has begun an inquiry into impeaching Trump over his conduct in a July 25 telephone call with Zelenskiy. After freezing military aid to Ukraine, which is battling a Russia-backed insurgency, the U.S. president asked Zelenskiy to investigate Biden, and encouraged him to work on the matter with his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and Attorney General William Barr.
“I would say that President Zelenskiy, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said Thursday. “Because nobody has any doubts that they weren’t crooked.”
Biden’s campaign dismissed Trump’s remarks as without merit.
“Donald Trump is flailing and melting down on national television, desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed by independent, credible news organizations,” said Biden Deputy Campaign Manager Kate Bedingfield in a statement. “It could not be more transparent: Donald Trump is terrified that Joe Biden will beat him like a drum.”
Also Thursday, Ellen Weintraub, a Democrat who is chair of the Federal Election Commission, retweeted a statement she originally made in June about electoral intervention from foreign governments.
“Let me make something 100% clear to the American public and anyone running for public office: It is illegal for any person to solicit, accept, or receive anything of value from a foreign national in connection with a U.S. election,” she said.
On China, Trump suggested that the Bidens may be the reason Beijing “has such a sweetheart deal, that for so many years they’ve been ripping off our country.” Trump didn’t elaborate but often says China is “ripping off” the U.S. in trade — the predicate for his ongoing trade war with Beijing.
Speaking to the media in September, Trump alluded to his suspicions about Biden and China: “When Biden’s son walks out of China with $1.5 billion in a fund, and the biggest funds in the world can’t get money out of China, and he’s there for one quick meeting and he flies in on Air Force Two, I think that’s a horrible thing.”
Implicit in Trump’s statements is that Joe Biden used his position to encourage Chinese officials to benefit his son’s business dealings involving a private-equity venture in the country. Not only has no evidence emerged of the vice president’s intervention, but it’s unclear whether Hunter Biden derived any financial benefit from the venture in the first place.
Vice President Mike Pence on Thursday backed Trump’s comments on China and 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,” Pence told reporters in Scottsdale, Arizona. “There are legitimate questions that ought to be asked and we’re going to continue to ask them.”
Trump’s assertions about China appear to originate from a 2018 book, “Secret Empires,” by the conservative author Peter Schweizer.
The book highlights how then-Vice President Biden took his son on a diplomatic trip to China in December 2013, and that around the same time, major Chinese companies formed a private-equity venture with which Hunter Biden was affiliated. The private-equity firm, known as Bohai Harvest RST, originally planned to raise $1 billion and later aimed for $1.5 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2014. This appears to be the amount of money the firm planned to invest on behalf of clients, not the value of the firm itself.
Hunter Biden was on the board of BHR from the outset, but he did not own an equity stake in the company until October 2017, after his father had left office, George Mesires, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, told Politifact. Mesires said Hunter Biden’s capital commitment in the venture is $420,000 and he has not received any earnings from the investment. He also said Hunter Biden was not paid for his service as a board member.
Corporate records retrieved in China in May showed BHR had paid-in capital of about $4 million.