An informal White House adviser on China is flip-flopping over whether China gave him information about former Vice President Joe Biden's son around the time President Donald Trump called on China to investigate the Bidens.
"I got quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese," the adviser, Michael Pillsbury, first told The Financial Times. Hours later, Pillsbury walked back his statement, saying on C-SPAN that he hadn't spoken to FT in more than a month.
But FT's Washington bureau chief released an email exchange dated October 9 between him and Pillsbury in which Pillsbury wrote, "Actually, I got a quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese."
He changed his story again later, telling The Washington Post, "Most everything I learned was already public or well known."
Trump has publicly urged both China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election, an effort that House Democrats say is an impeachable offense.
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An informal White House adviser on China is giving conflicting accounts to media organizations over whether China gave him information about former Vice President Joe Biden's son's activities in China, the same week that President Donald Trump urged the country to probe the Bidens.
First, the adviser, Michael Pillsbury, told The Financial Times he got "quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese."
"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."
Hours later, Pillsbury changed his story, telling C-SPAN he hadn't spoken with FT in over a month.
But FT's Washington bureau chief released an email exchange between him and Pillsbury, in which Pillsbury wrote, "Actually, I got quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese."
Shortly after that, Pillsbury gave another account, telling The Washington Post, "Most everything I learned was already public or well known."
He went on to say he was told that Hunter Biden's firm received a certain sum of money from the Bank of China, but it was unclear how much, adding that the Chinese government is reluctant to talk about Biden.
"They really, really didn't want to talk about it," Pillsbury told The Post.
He also said that, while he spoke with the president before going on a trip to China last month, Trump did not ask him to talk to Chinese officials about the Bidens. "I haven't reported back to him," Pillsbury said.
Pillsbury said during an earlier interview on Fox Business that he had raised the issue of the Bidens with Chinese officials when he visited the country last week.
Pillsbury's disclosure came days after China sought to distance itself from Trump's requests to probe the Bidens.
"China has long pursued the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries," foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said on Tuesday.
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Trump has repeatedly called on both China and Ukraine to investigate the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election, even though there is no evidence that the Bidens engaged in any wrongdoing in either country.
"China should start an investigation into the Bidens, because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine," Trump said last week while speaking to reporters on the White House lawn.
"So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens," he added, referring to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Trump and his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have long been pushing for Ukraine to investigate the Bidens for corruption. He raised the issue during a July 25 phone call with Zelensky, a conversation that's now at the heart of a brewing congressional impeachment inquiry looking at whether the president used his public office for private gain.
A White House summary of the call revealed Trump telling Zelensky the US "does a lot for Ukraine," after which Zelensky brought up that Ukraine wanted to purchase more javelins - a type of missile defense system - from the US.
Trump immediately followed up and told Zelensky he would like Ukraine to "do us a favor, though," and investigate Biden and his son. Days before the call, Trump had also ordered his administration to hold a nearly $400 million military aid package to Ukraine.
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The details of Trump's conversation with Zelensky first came to light in an explosive whistleblower complaint that a US intelligence official filed against the president in August, and which was released to the public last month. The complaint accused Trump of abusing his power to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election for his own political gain, and possibly dangling hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars as an incentive for Ukraine.
Trump and his allies have downplayed the conversation and said the only reason he wants the Bidens to be investigated is that he cares about corruption. But House Democrats and national-security officials say the conversation is clear evidence that Trump placed his own interests above the US's by asking Ukraine to dig up dirt on his political opponent.
During a meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly last month, Zelensky told the president to his face that he didn't want to be involved in the US election.
"I think you read everything. I think you read text. I'm sorry, but I don't want to be involved to democratic, open elections of USA," Zelensky told reporters. "We had, I think, good phone call. It was normal."
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