Despite facing an impeachment inquiry for asking Ukraine to investigate the Bidens, Donald Trump has now called on China to do the same. Democrats have accused the president of breaking his oath of office.
Amid an impeachment inquiry into whether he pressured Ukraine to probe former Vice President Joe Biden, US President Donald Trump has publicly called on China to investigate his Democratic political rival.
"China should start an investigation into the Bidens," he told reporters outside the White House on Thursday. He 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's efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate the Bidens and the attempted cover-up form the center of a House Democratic impeachment inquiry, launched last week.
The president initially denied reports he had pressured a foreign government to act for his personal gain and meddle in domestic politics, but the latest comments suggest Trump is trying to normalize such behavior.
The comments are also reminiscent of his 2016 calls for Russia to target Hillary Clinton's emails and release them, which hackers promptly did.
Trump and his allies have spent the week trying to raise suspicions about the Bidens' activities in Ukraine in an apparent attempt to deflect criticism.
House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, often a target of Trump's wrath for taking a leading role in the impeachment inquiry, said the president's comments show "he feels he can do anything with impunity."
"The president of the United States encouraging a foreign nation to interfere again to help his campaign by investigating a rival is a fundamental breach of a president's oath of office. It endangers our elections. It endangers our national security. It ought to be condemned by every member of this body, Democrats and Republicans alike," Schiff told reporters.
Federal Election Commission Chairwoman Ellen Weintraub said 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.
Biden is one of several Democrats who hope to challenge Trump in the 2020 election.
Volker: Withholding aid unusual
The latest comments came as Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, was in Washington to testify in a closed-door session to lawmakers.
Volker is a central figure in the impeachment inquiry, as he appears to have been working with Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who was running backdoor diplomacy on Ukraine.
The State Department official, who resigned in the wake of the impeachment inquiry, shared and reviewed dozens of pages of text messages, photos and other correspondence with lawmakers, sources familiar with the meeting told The Associated Press news agency.
Volker told House investigators that it was unusual for the US to withhold aid to Ukraine, adding that he was not given an explanation for the matter, the source said.
Later, the three House committees running the inquiry released dozens of texts between US diplomats in Ukraine discussing how to handle a response to Trump's demands that the country launch an investigation into Biden's family.
In one text exchange, Volker and US Ambassador to the EU Gordon Sondland discuss a draft statement in which the Ukrainian government would announce an investigation into the 2016 US presidential election and into a company whose board Biden's son served on, reported The New York Times .
Following Volker's 10 hours of testimony, Republican lawmakers expressed their continued support of Trump. "Not one thing he has said comports with any of the Democrats' impeachment narrative. Not one thing," said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio.
aw, jcg/cmk (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)