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Trump demands China investigate Biden family over business dealings as Congress told corruption claims ‘not credible’

President seeks probes of political rival as Congress hears from first impeachment inquiry

Chris Riotta
New York
,Andrew Buncombe
Thursday 03 October 2019 16:16 BST
Donald Trump says he wants both Ukraine and China to investigate Joe Biden and his son

Donald Trump has openly called on China and Ukraine to launch investigations into Joe Biden, one of his 2020 political rivals, just days after Congress launched an impeachment inquiry alleging he abused his power to aid his reelection campaign.

As a former senior diplomat told a member of Congress he had warned the president’s personal lawyer that accusations of Mr Biden’s misconduct in regard to Ukraine were “not credible”, the president told reporters at the White House he hoped Kiev “would start a major investigation into the Bidens”, after he and his allies in Washington spent recent weeks sharing unfounded claims the former vice president and his son had taken part in corrupt foreign business dealings.

Whereas Mr Trump has been accused of withholding $400m (£322.4m) in financial aid to the country while demanding Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky launch an investigation into the former vice president’s family, there has been no evidence to show Mr Biden took part in any wrongdoing while in office.

“They should investigate the Bidens,” Mr Trump continued. “And by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens.”

Mr Trump said he had not spoken with Chinese president Xi Jinping to directly request an investigation into the Bidens, adding: “But clearly it’s something we should start thinking about.”

“I think Biden is going down,” the president said.

Mr Trump has attempted to shift the investigative focus to Mr Biden after a whistleblower complaint from within the US intelligence community detailed his controversial 25 July phone call with Mr Zelensky.

The White House released a memorandum of the call shortly after the complaint drew international media attention. It showed Mr Trump suggesting Mr Zelensky investigate the Bidens for corruption while also looking into the origins of the US investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Mr Trump has long alleged Ukraine was responsible for election interference rather than Russia, despite his own intelligence community detailing a sweeping and systemic influence operation on the part of the Kremlin to help elect Mr Trump.

In recent days, the president and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, have begun bringing up China on top of Ukraine, suggesting Mr Biden benefited from his son’s business dealings. There is no evidence to show the former vice president engaged in any misconduct surrounding China and his son’s dealings in the country.

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Mr Biden is currently the national Democratic frontrunner in the 2020 primaries, according to most national polls, followed closely by Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders in several key states. He has recently announced his support for impeaching Mr Trump, whose former special envoy to Ukraine was testifying before Congress as the president spoke to reporters.

His campaign was quick to hit back at the president.

“As Joe Biden forcefully said last night, the defining characteristic of Donald Trump’s presidency is the ongoing abuse of power. What Donald Trump just said on the South Lawn of the White House was this election’s equivalent of his infamous ‘Russia, if you’re listening’ moment from 2016 – a grotesque choice of lies over truth and self over the country,” said Mr Biden’s spokesperson, Kate Bedingfield.

On Capitol Hill, Kurt Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine who is named in the whistleblower complaint as having been told to “contain the damage” caused by Mr Giuliani’s outreach to Ukraine’s president, told members of Congress he had warned the one-time New York mayor he was receiving incorrect information about Mr Biden.

The Washington Post reported Mr Volker, who last month quit his post as special envoy, told a closed-door hearing made up of members of three House committees, that Mr Giuliani should not trust stories told to him by Ukraine’s former top prosecutor.

Mr Giuliani, who on Monday was issued a subpoena by Democrats seeking information about his outreach to Mr Zelensky and other officials, has admitted acting on behalf of the president in pushing for a probe into the former vice president and his son, Hunter.

The Post said that at the heart of the issue has been Mr Giuliani’s claim that while he was vice president, Mr Biden pushed for the firing of Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin, as part of a corrupt plot to halt investigations into a Ukrainian natural gas company that employed Hunter Biden.

On Twitter, Mr Giuliani launched another attack on Democrats.

“Democrats now own Biden corruption,” he said “His family has been selling Biden’s offices for 5 decades. From sleazy little crooks to doing business with Ukrainian organised crime, Whitey Bulger’s nephew, Chinese government, a Madoff type and lots more. All covered up by Corrupt Media.”

Meanwhile, it was reported that Mr Trump ordered the removal of US’s Ukraine ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, following complaints from Mr Giuliani and others.

The Wall Street Journal said Ms Yovanovitch, who was recalled several months earlier than expected in May of this year, was accused by Mr Giuliani without evidence of trying to undermine the president and blocking efforts to investigate Democrats such as Mr Biden.

Ms Yovanovitch, who is also mentioned in the official complaint, is also due to appear on Capitol Hill, and is scheduled to give a deposition on 11 October.

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