As you “may” have heard, Donald Trump is facing impeachment for pressuring a foreign government to investigate a political rival in the service of bolstering his 2020 reelection bid.
It’s not the first time Trump is suspected of soliciting foreign interference in a US presidential election, but what makes this time different is that instead of forcing a team of prosecutors to spend two years investigating the situation, Trump just went ahead and released the evidence to the public in the form of a damning (or “perfect” as he describes it) transcript of a phone call with Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky.
Most people in Trump’s position would be extremely cautious about exacerbating the situation as angry House Democrats move ahead at warp speed with a formal impeachment inquiry, but this is Donald Trump we’re talking about, so instead, he’s spent the last week threatening to execute “spies”, arrest lawmakers for “treason” and start “a civil war”. The president’s irritation boiled over during an embarrassing press conference with Finnish President Sauli NiinistÃ¶ on Wednesday.
Despite being famous for making bad situations worse for himself, you’d think that even as he threatens to murder domestic political rivals and issues what amounts to a call to arms to his base, Trump wouldn’t ask another foreign leader to investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. And even if he did, you’d certainly be inclined to think he wouldn’t do it in public.
Well, you’d be wrong. Because on Thursday morning, speaking to (or maybe “at” is better) reporters ahead of trade talks with China’s Vice Premier Liu He starting next week, Trump said he wants President Xi to investigate the former vice president and his son.
“It’s certainly something we can start thinking about because I’m sure that President Xi does not like being under that kind of scrutiny where billions of dollars is taken out of his country by a guy that just got kicked out of the Navy”, Trump said.
That would appear to suggest that Trump is actually considering somehow linking trade talks with China to an investigation of the Bidens. You’d be forgiven for taking Trump’s remark (“I’m sure President Xi doesn’t want that kind of scrutiny”) as a thinly-veiled threat to Beijing.
Again, it’s astonishing that Trump would be this brazen in the middle of an impeachment inquiry tied to precisely this kind of behavior.
It’s not a stretch to suggest that he has now opened the door to House Democrats asking to see any and all communications tied to trade talks between Bob Lighthizer, Steve Mnuchin and Liu He.
Over the last two weeks, Rudy Giuliani has variously insisted that Hunter Biden should be investigated for his dealings in China.
Below, find some excerpts from The New Yorker’s July profile of Hunter, which give you some insight into what it is Trump is talking about.
Via The New Yorker (read the full article here)
In 2012, Archer and Hunter talked to Jonathan Li, who ran a Chinese private-equity fund, Bohai Capital, about becoming partners in a new company that would invest Chinese capital–and, potentially, capital from other countries–in companies outside China. In June, 2013, Li, Archer, and other business partners signed a memorandum of understanding to create the fund, which they named BHR Partners, and, in November, they signed contracts related to the deal. Hunter became an unpaid member of BHR’s board but did not take an equity stake in BHR Partners until after his father left the White House.
In December, 2013, Vice-President Biden flew to Beijing to meet with President Xi Jinping. Biden often asked one of his grandchildren to accompany him on his international trips, and he invited Finnegan to come on this one. Hunter told his father that he wanted to join them. According to a Beijing-based BHR representative, Hunter, shortly after arriving in Beijing, on December 4th, helped arrange for Li to shake hands with his father in the lobby of the American delegation’s hotel. Afterward, Hunter and Li had what both parties described as a social meeting. Hunter told me that he didn’t understand why anyone would have been concerned about this. “How do I go to Beijing, halfway around the world, and not see them for a cup of coffee?” he said.
Hunter’s meeting with Li and his relationship with BHR attracted little attention at the time, but some of Biden’s advisers were worried that Hunter, by meeting with a business associate during his father’s visit, would expose the Vice-President to criticism. The former senior White House aide told me that Hunter’s behavior invited questions about whether he “was leveraging access for his benefit, which just wasn’t done in that White House. Optics really mattered, and that seemed to be cutting it pretty close, even if nothing nefarious was going on.” When I asked members of Biden’s staff whether they discussed their concerns with the Vice-President, several of them said that they had been too intimidated to do so. “Everyone who works for him has been screamed at,” a former adviser told me. Others said that they were wary of hurting his feelings. One business associate told me that Biden, during difficult conversations about his family, “got deeply melancholy, which, to me, is more painful than if someone yelled and screamed at me. It’s like you’ve hurt him terribly. That was always my fear, that I would be really touching a very fragile part of him.”