Despite already being mired within a tough impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives, U.S. President Donald Trump single-handedly plunged himself into a fresh scandal last week.
Trump's phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky back in July led to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's announcement of a formal impeachment inquiry into abuse of power. Democratic lawmakers argue that Trump violated the Constitution by soliciting interference in U.S. elections from foreign governments.
On Thursday morning, President Trump told reporters at the White House that Ukraine and China should both investigate Joe Biden's family. He added that he did not yet ask Chinese President Xi Jinping to start an investigation but suggested he would think about it, referring to Biden's business in China. Thus, Trump gave another arguable instance of foreign interference in U.S. elections surrounding the impeachment debate.
It is unclear exactly what Trump would like China to investigate, aside from the general charge of corruption. The overall idea is that Biden's son Hunter used his father's position to help benefit his business pursuits in China. The conspiracy theory-like claim is that Hunter leveraged his relationship with the Vice President in order to score a sweetheart investment deal from a subsidiary of the Bank of China. While it is true that Hunter took a stake in the BHR Shanghai Equity Investment Fund and tried to raise $1.5 billion, the fund ended up raising only $4.2 million, hardly an unfair payout. Similar to the Ukraine affair, conservatives claim that Hunter took advantage of the Biden name and vice presidential position to capitalize on lucrative business opportunities. Perhaps a more pertinent question is whether Hunter's entrepreneurial activities in both Ukraine and China gave the perception of a potential conflict of interest while his father was a heartbeat away from the U.S. presidency.
Trump's brazen request took China by surprise, and the Chinese government pointedly refused the suggestion and replied that the country does not want to intervene in U.S. political affairs. As the U.S.-China trade war prolongs, some U.S. government officials are worried that Trump's request will become China's leverage during upcoming trade negotiations. The fear is that China will take Trump less seriously and put less effort into compromise toward a trade deal.
In addition, Trump is facing lots of heat at home. Democratic lawmakers point to his statement as another impeachable offense, and even a handful of Senate Republicans came out to criticize Trump's actions this week. Mitt Romney (R-UT), a longtime Trump critic, was the first, and three more including Ben Sasse (R-NE), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Rob Portman (R-OH) have labeled Trump's request as inappropriate. However, no Republican lawmakers have yet to publicly condemn Trump's actions as grounds for impeachment. The views of moderate Republican Senators are especially crucial because they would likely be the deciding votes after the House refers the impeachment resolution to the Senate for a trial to determine conviction and removal.
- 1. https://www.cnbc.com/2019/10/03/trump-calls-for-ukraine-china-to-investigate-the-bidens.html
- 2. https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2019/oct/02/donald-trumps-accusations-about-hunter-biden-and-c/
- 3. https://foreignpolicy.com/2019/10/07/donald-trumps-credibility-with-china-plummets-joe-biden/
- 4. https://www.politico.com/news/2019/10/07/rob-portman-trump-china-joe-biden-038222