Last week, as President Donald Trump publicly asked China to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, a Trump surrogate was in Beijing pressing Chinese contacts for dirt on the Bidens — and claims they gave it to him.
The revelation comes from the Financial Times, which reports that Michael Pillsbury, an informal China adviser to the Trump White House, claims to have secured unspecified information on Hunter Biden’s business dealings in China.
Much of the foreign election interference scandal that has ensnared Trump in a House impeachment investigation has centered on Ukraine, and Trump’s direct request of that country’s president to investigate his political rivals.
Last week, Trump doubled down on the behavior for which he’s being investigated, publicly calling on not just Ukraine but China to investigate the Bidens. “Likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens,” Trump said, “because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with — with Ukraine.”
In his remarks, Trump accused China of securing favorable trade terms with the United States by paying off the son of then Vice President Biden: “China, for so many years, has had a sweetheart deal where China rips off the USA — because they deal like people with Biden, where they give their son a billion and a half dollars.” Trump added of Hunter Biden: “He got kicked out of the Navy; all of a sudden, he’s getting billions of dollars. You know what they call that? They call that a ‘payoff.’”
Trump has made no efforts to substantiate these allegations — or contextualize them in light of his own extended family’s attempts to enrich themselves with business dealings in China while Trump has been president, for example daughter Ivanka securing Chinese business trademarks or the family business of son-in-law Jared Kushner seeking to sell a troubled high-rise to Chinese investors.
It’s a pattern of smear by innuendo practiced by a White House with vanishingly little regard for the truth.
The New York Times reported last week that:
The $1.5 billion figure to which Mr. Trump referred on Thursday appears to be the amount of money that a Shanghai-based private-equity company, BHR Equity Investment Fund Management Co., aimed to raise in 2014. The company, which says its biggest shareholder is the state-controlled Bank of China, pools money and invests in companies, many of which are also state owned.
The New York Times also quoted Hunter Biden’s lawyer as saying that the younger Biden — who has served on the board of BHR since 2013 and bought a ten percent stake in the firm after his father left office in 2017 — has received zero profits from the venture as yet, much less $1.5 billion. Joe Biden has denied any wrongdoing, accusing Trump of “pushing flat-out lies, debunked conspiracy theories and smears against me and my family.”
In remarks to the Financial Times, Pillsbury built on the president’s dark insinuations. “I got a quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese,” he told the paper. It’s unclear if there is any substance to this claim. It is also not clear whether Pillsbury was speaking to government or private sector sources. Pressed for details, the paper reports, “Mr Pillsbury would only say that it related to a $1.5 billion payment from the Bank of China.”
Pillsbury recently appeared on Fox Business claiming the Chinese treated its business with the younger Biden as a state secret: “I tried to bring up the topic in Beijing,” Pillsbury said. “I’ve never seen them get so secretive in my entire life. They would discuss ICBM warheads sooner than talk about what Hunter Biden was doing in China with vice-president Biden.”
Pillsbury, 74, is a Hudson Institute China scholar and author of The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower.
UPDATE: After the initial publication of this post, Andrew Bates, a spokesperson for the Biden campaign reached out to Rolling Stone. “Now we have yet another ‘unofficial’ China envoy seeking dirt with which to smear the Biden family in the second foreign country that Trump publicly begged to bail out his re-election campaign,” he said.
The work of Pillsbury, Bates added, underscores that the president’s open plea for a Chinese investigation was no joke, and that the president’s words inspire action. “While the president’s limited number of vocal defenders have tried claiming that his South Lawn statement asking China to investigate the Biden family somehow wasn’t a ‘real’ request,” he said, “Pillsbury’s admission again lays bare that there is no depth to which Trump will not sink to avoid facing Joe Biden in next year’s election.”