It’s been a roller-coaster couple of weeks for the Trump administration, and for wild-eyed allies telling on themselves for their roles and intentions in Ukraine. Today, the blurting out of national scandals expanded a few thousand miles eastward, when the president encouraged China to investigate former vice-president Joe Biden.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened in Ukraine,” Trump said on the South Lawn, without giving any context for what he was talking about. (The president appears to be referring to allegations stemming from an official White House trip in 2013. Hunter Biden tagged along, and shortly after the visit, a private-equity fund for which he served as a board member received an infusion of Chinese capital; he reportedly has not received any money from the fund related to his board seat.)
According to a report on CNN, this eruption from the president wasn’t spontaneous. In a phone call with President Xi from June 18, Trump brought up Biden and Elizabeth Warren and mentioned that he wouldn’t comment on the protests in Hong Kong as China and the U.S. pursued an end to the trade war. The record of the call was then dumped in the top-secret server that the Ukraine call was stored in — the one that the whistle-blower revealed in his complaint that also contains conversations with Vladimir Putin and Mohammed bin Salman. (Earlier in the week, the White House had not denied that Trump raised Biden in the conversation with Xi.)
As if a second open solicitation of foreign aid in an election wasn’t enough for a Thursday morning, according to CNN, a Trump ally confirmed the seriousness of the president’s request: “One Trump ally outside the White House described receiving a message from Chinese government officials asking if Trump was serious when he suggested China open an investigation into Biden. The response: Investigating corruption is an easy way to earn goodwill with Trump.”
It’s hard to overstate how shortsighted the president’s actions were on the South Lawn — canvassing a second head of state for election aid while facing an impeachment inquiry for the first effort. But more staggering is the fact that his allies were right there with him, confirming his worst impulses. When in Mar-a-Lago …
The administration in Beijing is certainly playing its hand a little closer to the vest: A Chinese diplomat who spoke with CNN said that Trump’s request was “quite chaotic” and that “we do not want to get in the middle of the U.S. politics.” Meanwhile, the president was back on Twitter Thursday night, affirming his self-perceived right to do whatever he wants: