Tuesday 22 October 2019

Republicans silent over Trump's plea to China

Donald Trump (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Donald Trump (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Most Republican leaders in the US are remaining silent or supportive of Donald Trump's public call for another foreign government, China, to investigate Joe Biden, while a handful voiced concern that the president was trying to enlist a rival power in his re-election effort.

Several House and Senate leaders stayed mum as Trump escalated the controversy that has fuelled an impeachment inquiry and ploughed through another norm of American politics. The quiet continued as Democrats released a trove of text messages showing US diplomats campaigned to push Ukraine to investigate Biden, a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination to face Trump next November, and Biden's son Hunter.

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Foreign interference in elections has long been viewed as a threat to US sovereignty and the integrity of democracy, and soliciting foreign help in an election is illegal. But Trump found support in his willingness to openly challenge that convention. Vice President Mike Pence made clear he backed the president and believes he is raising "appropriate" issues. Other allies agreed.

Dissent came from familiar corners this past week.

Utah Senator Mitt Romney tweeted: "By all appearances, the President's brazen and unprecedented appeal to China and to Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden is wrong and appalling."

As Democrats pursue an impeachment investigation, Republicans have struggled with how best to shield themselves - and the unpredictable president who may decide their political fortunes. With little guidance from the White House, lawmakers have tried to say as little as possible, blame Democrats or express vague optimism about the investigative process.

Some Republicans appeared eager for the controversy to simply not exist. "I don't think it's a real request," Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a prominent China critic, told reporters last Friday. "I think he did it to get you guys. I think he did it to provoke you to ask me and others and get outraged by it."

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