Fears that President Trump may use misleading allegations about China as a bludgeon against Joe Biden are coming to a head.
For much of 2020, the President and his allies have pushed disinformation around the former vice president focused on Ukraine, in part because of the country’s role in President Trump’s impeachment and in part because of its byzantine relation to Russia’s 2016 election interference. But there have long been signs that Trumpworld would also seek to peddle misleading attacks around China.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) devoted part of his bogus Ukraine report, released Wednesday, to supposed ties between Hunter Biden and China, while pro-Trump Super PAC America First Action has started running ads in Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin showing the Democratic candidate making positive statements about China.
Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe has been pushing the narrative that Beijing is covertly supporting Biden, telling Fox News in August that China wants Trump to lose in November. Trump himself has made similar claims.
Just In: Chinese State Media and Leaders of CHINA want Biden to win “the U.S. Election”. If this happened (which it won’t), China would own our Country, and our Record Setting Stock Markets would literally CRASH!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 26, 2020
Andrew Bates, a spokesman for Biden, told TPM that Trump had his own problems with China.
“As the most devastating public health crisis in 100 years rapidly spread, he echoed Chinese government propaganda to downplay the threat and justify inaction — disregarding warnings from the intelligence community and Joe Biden not to take their word,” Bates said.
In his report on tired and long-debunked allegations surrounding Biden and Ukraine, Sen. Johnson also focused in on supposed ties between the Biden family and the Chinese government.
The report rehashed allegations about ties between the younger Biden’s company and government-linked Chinese officials, but made new allegations of financial ties based on documents from the U.S. Treasury.
The investigation did not describe what those documents were or corroborate them with other sources, but did use them to claim that they showed “consistent, significant and extensive financial connections” with the Chinese Communist Party and the People’s Liberation Army.
Specifically, Johnson alleged that Hunter Biden developed those connections via a Chinese businessman who, the report said, had close ties to the Communist Party.
“These connections and the vast amount of money transferred among and between them don’t just raise conflicts of interest concerns, they raise criminal financial, counterintelligence and extortion concerns,” lawmakers alleged. “The Committees will continue to evaluate the evidence in their possession.”
In this way, the report, which provided little new on Ukraine, seemed aimed at bolstering an attack on Biden already lodged by the President’s allies. The theme of Chinese control over Biden featured prominently at the Republican National Convention in August, where Trump suggested he had secret intelligence on his rival.
“That’s why China supports Joe Biden and desperately wants him to win — I can tell you that upon very good information,” Trump told a laughing Rose Garden audience.
Trump has frequently manipulated intelligence for political engs, and DNI Ratcliffe, who was confirmed in May, has aided Trump in that effort through public comments saying that Beijing wants China to win. The Trump campaign subsequently boosted those remarks.
Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AK) wrote in an opinion column published by Fox News in August that “our intelligence community has concluded that China prefers Joe Biden’s candidacy to the reelection of President Trump.”
House Democrats have demanded briefings about election interference, only to have Ratcliffe refuse to stop briefing lawmakers after making those remarks. Ratcliffe reversed that on Thursday, giving House lawmakers their first briefing on election interference in a month.
Biden has separately described Ratcliffe’s behavior as being part of a plot to hurt his candidacy.
“But now President Trump, through his hand-picked DNI — chosen for loyalty, not experience — is attempting to deprive Congress of the information they need to do their part,” the former vice president said.