US President Donald Trump on Thursday again invited foreign interference in a US presidential election, by publicly calling on China to investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden, a repeat of the request that had already triggered an impeachment inquiry in Congress.
As he left the White House for a visit to Florida, the Republican president told reporters he believed both China and Ukraine should look into 2020 presidential hopeful Biden and his businessman son Hunter, and described the impeachment inquiry as “crap.”
“And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine,” Trump said.
Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have accused former Vice President Biden, a leading contender for the Democratic Party nomination of improperly assisting his son’s business ventures in Ukraine and China. They have provided no evidence to support their claims. Trump said he had not directly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to investigate the Bidens but it is “certainly something we could start thinking about”.
The Chinese embassy in Washington, DC did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Trump’s appeal to China is particularly striking since Washington and Beijing are locked in a bitter trade war that has damaged global economic growth and are set to hold another round of talks in the United States in the coming week.
“Donald Trump has made it difficult for Republicans to stand up and say: It’s all a misunderstanding,” Alan Fisher reports from Washington, DC. “Especially as the Chinese will be here next week.”
The China remarks stiffened the resolve of Democrats in the House of Representatives to push ahead with an inquiry into whether Trump should be impeached following revelations by an anonymous whistle-blower who said Trump asked Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyto investigate the Bidens.
Trump asked Zelensky in a phone call in July to investigate Biden and his son over allegations of corruption, even though there was no evidence of wrongdoing by the former vice president or his son.
Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
Trump froze $400m in US aid to Ukraine shortly before he asked its president for the favour, prompting accusations from Democrats that he had used US foreign policy for his own benefit. Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong and has called the impeachment inquiry “witch-hunt garbage”.
Reacting to Trump’s comments on Thursday, Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, tweeted that the president “cannot use the power of his office to pressure foreign leaders to investigate his political opponents”.
He added that Trump’s “rant this morning reinforces the urgency of our work”.
“The President cannot use the power of his office to pressure foreign leaders to investigate his political opponents.
“His rant this morning reinforces the urgency of our work.” — Al Jazeera