President Trump cranked up his attacks on Joe Biden Friday as he sought to fight political fire with political fire amid Democrats’ impeachment investigation, accusing the former vice president of "pillaging" foreign countries while insisting his controversial push for foreign governments to look into Biden dealings is about corruption and not politics.
“I don’t care about Biden’s campaign, but I do care about corruption,” Trump said. “I don’t care about politics, I don’t care about anything. I care about corruption.”
He added: “We’re investigating corruption. We’re not investigating campaigns.”
The president’s comments came on a day of whirlwind developments in the House impeachment inquiry, with intelligence community Inspector General Michael Atkinson testifying behind closed doors on Capitol Hill, Democrats preparing subpoenas for the White House, and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo facing a deadline to comply with a separate subpoena—all over Trump's controversial July 25 phone call with the president of Ukraine in which he sought a Biden-related probe.
His comments Friday drew skepticism from critics in Congress, including Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah.
“When the only American citizen President Trump singles out for China’s investigation is his political opponent in the midst of the Democratic nomination process, it strains credulity to suggest that it is anything other than politically motivated,” Romney tweeted.
But Trump has aggressively pushed back, citing new details surrounding Hunter Biden’s work at the Ukrainian natural gas firm Burisma Holdings. Trump, from the White House lawn Friday, went on to mention how much money he has heard Hunter Biden made while working for the firm.
“I’m hearing the number of $50,000 a month—it’s a much higher number that Biden’s son was getting per month—for him, as a totally unqualified person to be getting hundreds of thousands a month is very, very sad,” Trump said.
It is unclear how much money Hunter Biden made while serving on the board of the firm, but reports have estimated he made up to $50,000 per month — which would be up to $600,000 a year. Fox News has also obtained notes from an interview Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani conducted with Yuriy Lutsenko, the former Ukrainian prosecutor who eventually closed the Burisma probe. He said he “believes Hunter Biden receives millions of dollars in compensation from Burisma,” according to the notes.
Hunter Biden's work is at the center of the current controversy, as Trump is under fire from Democrats for pressing Ukraine to look into it, as well as Joe Biden's effort to get a prosecutor who had been investigating Burisma removed from his post. Biden allies maintain this was due to corruption concerns. Trump allies maintain the real controversy surrounds Biden -- not the president.
Trump on Friday was also asked whether the Justice Department was investigating the Bidens and their business dealings in Ukraine—but kicked the question back to the DOJ.
“Well, that you’d have to ask Attorney General Barr,” Trump said. “As an observer—what I saw Biden do with his son, he is pillaging these countries and hurting us.”
The DOJ did not comment.
Trump also doubled down on his criticism of the Bidens' involvement in China, claiming that if the former vice president were elected in 2020, he would "roll out the red carpet" for Beijing in trade negotiations.
This comes after Trump took heat for calling on China a day earlier to investigate the Bidens, claiming the country gave Hunter Biden $1.5 billion in order to gain influence with his father, who was vice president at the time.
“That’s probably why China for so many years has had a sweetheart deal where China rips off the U.S.A,” he said Thursday.
He added: “You know what they call that? They call that a payoff.”
The extent of Hunter Biden’s business dealings with China is unclear. According to Reuters, a Chinese investor and others agreed to start a fund in 2013, with Hunter Biden on the board as an apparently unpaid member. Biden reportedly met with the Chinese investor on a much-scrutinized 2013 trip, which he took along with his father, then the vice president.
The money figure cited by Trump has been disputed by a spokesman for Hunter Biden. The Washington Post recently reported that the firm behind the fund said they planned to raise $1.5 billion, but a spokesman said Hunter Biden bought only a 10 percent equity interest in the fund that was actually worth $430,000.
The New York Times quoted Biden’s lawyer saying he has not earned money from any of the business deals.
Trump’s China calls, meanwhile, invited new criticism from Democrats, and Republicans like Romney, who accused him of asking another foreign power to investigate a political opponent, despite his repeated claims that it has nothing to do with politics.
But Trump has sought to go firmly on offense. On Friday, Trump confirmed that he planned to send a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., “daring” her to hold a vote on Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. The letter is expected to say that the White House won’t comply with the Democrats’ investigation because Pelosi has not codified the probe with a formal vote on the House floor.
Trump also said Pelosi is “petrified” of members in her caucus, like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and other freshman members.
“In the House they have the majority and they all vote with AOC plus three. Nancy Pelosi is petrified of them,” he said. “She’s afraid to lose her position. Nancy Pelosi will lose her position when the Republicans take the House.”
Pelosi showed no signs of backing down, however, writing in a letter Thursday to House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy: "The existing rules of the House provide House Committees with full authority to conduct investigations for all matters under their jurisdiction, including impeachment investigations. There is no requirement under the Constitution, under House Rules, or House precedent that the whole House vote before proceeding with an impeachment inquiry."