Donald Trump urges China to investigate Joe Biden and son

US president renews call on Ukraine to ‘start investigation’ into Democratic rival for White House

Donald Trump has urged China to investigate Joe Biden, the former US vice-president, blatantly encouraging a foreign country to interfere in the 2020 presidential election.

 

US president Donald Trump has called on China to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, the latest suggestion by Mr Trump that a foreign government should investigate a political rival.

Speaking to reporters as he left the White House for an event in Florida on Thursday, Mr Trump said: “China should start an investigation into the Bidens because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened in Ukraine.”

He also doubled-down on his invitation to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigation Mr Biden and his son, Hunter, which was revealed in a memo of a phone call last week.

Asked what exactly he had hoped Mr Zelenskiy would do, Mr Trump replied: “Well I would think that if they were honest about it, they’d start a major investigation into the Bidens. It’s a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens... nobody has any doubt that they weren’t [sic] crooked... Nobody has any doubt, and they got rid of a prosecutor who was a very tough prosecutor,” he said.

Mr Trump and his supporters have alleged, without providing evidence, that Mr Biden pressured Ukraine to fire its top prosecutor to stop an investigation into the Ukrainian gas company, Burisma, where Hunter Biden was once a board member. 

Mr Trump’s overture to Beijing emerged as a Chinese delegation prepared to travel to Washington for more trade talks with the United States next week.

House of Representatives intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff, who is leading Democrat investigations as part of an impeachment inquiry into the president announced last week, criticised Mr Trump’s comments.

“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,” Mr Schiff said on Twitter, adding: “America is a Republic, if we can keep it.”

First witness

Speaking at an event in Arizona, vice-president Mike Pence defended Mr Trump’s phone call with the Ukrainian president. He said Mr Trump had raised issues during the call that were “appropriate, that were genuine interests to the American people. This is just more of the same of what we’ve seen from Democrats for the past two and a half years”.

Noting that one reason voters elected Mr Trump and his team was so they would “drain the swamp”, Mr Pence said voters had the “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”.

On Capitol Hill, Democrats interviewed their first witness in the impeachment inquiry on Thursday, with former US special representative to Ukraine Kurt Volker appearing behind closed doors

Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudi Giuliani, who has been accused of running a shadow foreign policy for the US president in Ukraine, said he told Mr Volker about his engagement with Ukrainian officials, proof he says that the State Department knew what he was doing.

Mr Volker, a former US ambassador to Nato, resigned from his position as special representative to Ukraine last Friday and chose to testify despite attempts by secretary of state Mike Pompeo to bar current and former State Separtment officials from providing depositions to Congress.

Mr Volker was questioned by staff from the House foreign affairs, intelligence and oversight committees for several hours and reportedly provided them with 60 pages of notes before the meeting, including records of text messages.

Mr Volker is one of several people House Democrats are due to question in private in the coming weeks as their impeachment inquiry gathers pace.