Sen. Marco Rubio went further than he previously had Tuesday in criticizing President Donald Trump's call for China to investigate Joe Biden — though he said he still thinks the White House will not follow through on the request.
"I don't think what he said was right. I don't agree with it," the Florida Republican told CNBC's "Squawk Alley," days after he said Trump only made his remarks to "provoke" the media.
The senator later added: "It's an offhand comment and an inappropriate one but not a real proposal or a real initiative that's [being undertaken]."
A White House spokesman declined to comment on whether Trump's request was not really a serious plan.
Trump last week said Beijing "should start an investigation" into the former vice president Biden, one of his chief rivals for the presidency in 2020, and his son Hunter. The request led to new backlash on Capitol Hill after the president's push for Ukraine to probe the Bidens sparked an ongoing House impeachment inquiry.
Lawmakers have looked into whether Trump abused his power and compromised national security by urging a foreign government to investigate a political opponent. Trump has denied he wants to influence the 2020 election and insists he only wants to root out "corruption." When asked last week if he had requested foreign governments look into possible corruption by someone who is not a political rival, Trump said, "We'd have to look."
While some Republicans such as Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, and Rep. Will Hurd, R-Texas, criticized Trump's request to China, other GOP lawmakers such as Rubio initially downplayed his comments. Rubio said, "I think he did it to get [the news media]."
"He plays it like a violin, and everyone falls for it," he told reporters in Florida on Friday.
Though he said Tuesday that he disagreed with the president's remarks on China, Rubio added that he is "not thinking the Chinese are working on a plan" to probe the Bidens.
Earlier in the day, China dismissed Trump's call to investigate Biden, according to the South China Morning Post. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said "we have no intention of intervening in the domestic affairs of the United States."
Trump's call for Beijing to probe the Biden family came only days before negotiators from the world's two largest economies were set to resume trade discussions in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. The U.S. and China hope to strike a deal and end a damaging trade war, and Trump's comments about the Bidens sparked questions about whether an investigation could affect talks.