President Donald Trump said Friday that he would keep his desire for China to investigate the Biden family separate from high-stakes trade talks with Beijing.
A day earlier, the president said, "China should start an investigation" into Joe Biden and his son Hunter — prompting more fears about him abusing his power to try to influence the 2020 election by pushing foreign governments to probe one of his chief political rivals. Trump's efforts to get Ukraine's government to investigate the former vice president prompted the House impeachment inquiry into Trump.
"One thing has nothing to do with the other," Trump said when asked if he was more likely to strike a trade deal with China if its government investigates Biden.
Trump's comments Thursday raised concerns about whether he could use a probe into the Bidens as part of ongoing trade talks with China, one of his biggest domestic and foreign policy priorities. The world's two largest economies have tried to strike a trade deal amid a conflict that has threatened to drag on global economic growth and contributed to fears about a U.S. recession ahead of Trump's reelection bid.
Earlier Friday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi questioned whether Trump brought up Biden during China trade talks.
The California Democrat tweeted: "What did @realDonaldTrump promise China in exchange for interfering in our election? An easier deal on trade? Ignoring crackdown on Hong Kong's pro-democracy movement? Condoning repression of religious freedom?"
There is no indication now that Trump or officials in his administration tied any piece of the talks to investigating Biden. Asked Friday what he said to the Chinese government about the Bidens, the president responded, "I don't know."
Trump claimed he "does not care about Biden's campaign," but he does "care about corruption." Trump has leveled unsubstantiated accusations that Biden, as vice president, tried to remove Ukraine's chief prosecutor in order to stop him from investigating his son, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Asked if he has ever urged a foreign leader to investigate someone who is not a political rival, the president said, "We'd have to look."
Trade discussions between the U.S. and China will resume Thursday in Washington. The Trump administration has pushed for Beijing to address what he calls unfair trade practices, including intellectual property theft and forced technology transfers. He has also pushed China to buy more U.S. agricultural products to reduce the trade deficit between the countries.
The Trump administration has slapped tariffs on more than $500 billion in Chinese goods. Beijing has put duties on $110 billion in American goods, targeting agricultural products in particular.
The president also contended Biden would roll over in trade talks with China if he won the White House.
"How would you like to have, as an example, Joe Biden negotiating the China deal if he took it over from me after the election?" Trump asked. "He would give them everything. He would give them everything. How would you like to have that?"
Biden has criticized the Trump administration's trade war with China. In a foreign policy speech in July, Biden called to crack down on Chinese trade abuses but said the U.S. needed to take action along with a "united front" of allies.