WASHINGTON (AP) — Ensnarled in an impeachment investigation over his request for Ukraine to investigate a chief political rival, President Donald Trump on Thursday called on another nation to probe former Vice President Joe Biden: China.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said in remarks to reporters outside the White House. Trump said he hadn’t directly asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to investigate Biden and his son Hunter but said it’s "certainly something we could start thinking about.”
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.
"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."
Biden campaign Chairman Cedric Richmond dismissed Trump's lurch into China, saying it is a reprisal of his Ukrainian efforts to taint Biden and a reflection of polling showing Biden leading Trump in a hypothetical head-to-head matchup. “This president is scared, and he’s acting out,” the Louisiana congressman said.
The Biden campaign charged that Trump’s comments were “equivalent” to his call in 2016 for Russia to release democratic nominee Hillary Clinton’s emails if they had obtained them by hacking _ which U.S. intelligence agencies later assessed to be the case.
Biden communications director and deputy campaign manager Kate Bedingfield called it “a grotesque choice of lies over truth and self over the country.”
On Monday, Geng Shuang, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the allegation that Chinese government business gave Biden’s son $1.5 billion “totally groundless.”
RELATED: Hunter Biden through the years
Hunter Biden through the years
Hunter Biden through the years
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: World Food Program USA Board Chairman Hunter Biden speaks on stage at the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: (L-R) U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, Hon. Dan Glickman, and Hunter Biden attend the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: World Food Program USA Board Chairman Hunter Biden (L) and U.S. Vice President Joe Biden attend the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Teresa Kroeger/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: World Food Program USA Board Chairman Hunter Biden and Kathleen Biden arrive at the World Food Program USA's Annual McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for World Food Program USA)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 12: WFP USA Board Chair Hunter Biden speaks during the World Food Program USA's 2016 McGovern-Dole Leadership Award Ceremony at the Organization of American States on April 12, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Kris Connor/WireImage)
NEW YORK, NY - MAY 28: Hunter Biden attends the T&C Philanthropy Summit with screening of "Generosity Of Eye" at Lincoln Center with Town & Country on May 28, 2014 in New York City. (Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images for Town & Country)
US Vice President Joe Biden (C) buys an ice-cream at a shop as he tours a Hutong alley with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden (R) and son Hunter Biden (L) in Beijing on December 5, 2013. Biden said on December 5 China's air zone had caused "significant apprehension" and Beijing needed to reduce Asia-Pacific tensions to protect its growing stake in regional peace and stability. AFP PHOTO / POOL / Andy Wong (Photo credit should read ANDY WONG/AFP/Getty Images)
BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 04: U.S. Vice President Joe Biden waves as he walks out of Air Force Two with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden (C) and son Hunter Biden (R) at the airport December 4, 2013 in Beijing, China. Biden is on the first leg of his week-long visit to Asia. (Photo by Ng Han Guan-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 01: Second Lady Dr. Jill Biden and World Food Program USA Board Chair Hunter Biden taking the Live Below the Line Challenge, eating and drinking on $1.50 a day to raise awareness of global hunger and World Food Programme school feeding efforts around the world, at World Food Program USA on May 1, 2013 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
President Barack Obama, left, Vice President Joe Biden, center, and Hunter Biden share a laugh during the first half of the NCAA basketball game between Georgetown and Duke at the Verizon Center in Washington, D.C., Saturday January 30, 2010. Georgetown defeated Duke, 89-77. (Photo by Chuck Myers/MCT/MCT via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON - OCTOBER 29: Hunter Biden (l) and actor Woody Harrelson pose for a photo at the after party following the 2nd Annual IMPACT Film Festival's screening of "The Messenger" at Posh on October 29, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Paul Morigi/WireImage)
U.S. Vice President Joe Biden (2R) arrives at Arlington National Cemetery with his wife Dr. Jill Biden (R), his son Hunter (L) and his daughter-in-law Kathleen for the internment services for U.S. Senator Edward Kennedy in Arlington, Virginia, August 29, 2009. Kennedy died late Tuesday after a battle with cancer. AFP PHOTO/POOL/Jim BOURG (Photo credit should read JIM BOURG/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, D.C. - JANUARY 20: Vice-President Joe Biden arrives with his family, wife Jill, sons Hunter and Beau at the reviewing stand to watch the Inaugural Parade from in front of The White House January 20, 2009 in Washington, DC. Obama was sworn in as the 44th President of the United States, becoming the first African-American to be elected to the President in the US. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 19: Hunter Biden and guest attend the Artists And Athletes Alliance red carpet event at Inaugural Honors ServiceNation, held at Cafe Milano in Georgetown January 19, 2009 Washington, DC. (Photo by Logan Mock-Bunting/Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
Trump’s comments came as he publicly acknowledged that his message to Ukrainian President Volodymyr 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’s been no evidence of wrongdoing by either the former vice president or his son.