There’s a long list of instances in which Donald Trump has acted impulsively on assorted whims, but the president’s scheme to get foreign assistance for his re-election campaign was altogether different. It was a deliberate scheme, planned out in some detail, involving presidential orders to a variety of people, including officials within his administration.
The scandal surrounding this plan grew more serious last week when Americans saw Trump, desperate and afraid of losing, publicly appeal to foreign countries to do his re-election campaign a favor – again.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said the president’s appeal wasn’t “real,” because Trump was kidding. The Florida senator added that the president was simply “needling the press.” Soon after, Republicans ran with this as a talking point, with Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) arguing over the weekend that Trump wasn’t “serious” about getting foreign countries to go after a domestic rival.
It was against this backdrop that there was a notable exchange during a brief presidential Q&A with reporters yesterday afternoon:
Q: Were you joking when you asked China to investigate?
TRUMP: China has to do whatever they want. If they want to look into something, they can look into it. If they don’t want to look into it, they don’t have to. Frankly, are far as I’m concerned, if China wants to look into something, I think that’s great. And if they don’t want to, I think that’s great too. That’s up to China.
Or put another way, the president obviously wasn’t kidding about having Beijing pursue a baseless conspiracy regarding the Bidens.
It’s a problem for those who go out on a limb in support of Donald Trump: the Republican has a tendency to saw those limbs off, indifferent to the impact on his ostensible supporters.
In related news, there’s some question as to whether China did, in fact, provide information to Team Trump on Joe Biden’s son, Hunter. Michael Pillsbury, one of Trump’s top advisers on China, recently returned from Beijing and, as the Washington Post reported yesterday, has made some provocative comments.
“I got a quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese,” Pillsbury was quoted as telling the London-based Financial Times.
Hours later, Pillsbury appeared on C-SPAN and denied having made the comment. “I haven’t spoken to the Financial Times for a month,” he said.
But Demetri Sevastopulo, the FT’s Washington bureau chief, responded by making public on Twitter their Oct. 9 email exchange. It showed that Pillsbury had sent the journalist an email reading: “Actually I got a quite a bit of background on Hunter Biden from the Chinese.”
Under the circumstances, it’s hard to say with confidence what, if anything, Pillsbury received from Beijing. That said, these developments aren’t doing any favors for Rubio, Jordan, Blunt, and the “it was all just a big joke” contingent.