WASHINGTON — President Trump on Thursday publicly called on China to investigate a political rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., in an extraordinary presidential request to a foreign country for help that could benefit him in the 2020 election.
“China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said Thursday as he left the White House to travel to Florida where he was expected to announce an executive order on Medicare.
The call for China to investigate Mr. Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings there came as the first witness appeared on Capitol Hill to be interviewed by House investigators as part of an impeachment inquiry into the president’s request in a phone call for help from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine.
Mr. Trump has defended his conversation with Mr. Zelensky as “perfect” even after a reconstructed transcript of the call was released that showed him seeking help from Ukraine in investigating the Bidens. And he doubled down on his request on Thursday.
“I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens,” Mr. Trump said. “Because nobody has any doubt that they weren’t crooked.”
These requests, which critics argue are an abuse of presidential power, echo Mr. Trump’s 2016 request to Russia on the campaign trail to release missing emails of his political opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Mr. Trump made the comments about China ahead of the latest round of trade talks, which are set to take place next week.