Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin to release dirt on President Joe Biden’s family as the U.S. and its NATO allies try to halt the Kremlin’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine.
Trump said in an interview with right-wing host John Solomon that Putin “should release” dirt on Hunter Biden since the Russian autocrat is “not exactly a fan of our country.”
Trump’s remarks Tuesday underscore his relentless efforts to use foreign and sometimes adversarial powers to help him politically. Trump infamously asked Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to do him a “favor” by launching a dubious investigation into Biden and his son Hunter in exchange for the release of U.S. military aid that had already been approved by Congress. That phone call, which Trump described as “perfect,” led to his first impeachment. During the 2016 campaign, Russian hackers targeted Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton days after Trump’s “Russia, if you’re listening” remark, asking the Kremlin to find Clinton’s “missing” emails. Trump’s eldest son and top campaign officials later met with a Russian agent who had promised dirt on Clinton.
During the Solomon interview, Trump cited a partisan investigation led by Senate Republicans into Hunter Biden’s role on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy firm. The probe found little evidence of wrongdoing but the GOP report made an unrelated allegation that the firm Rosemont Seneca Thornton, which was supposedly linked to Hunter Biden, received $3.5 million from the wife of late Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. An attorney for Hunter Biden, who co-founded the investment firm Rosemont Seneca Advisors, denied that he had any stake in Rosemont Seneca Thornton, which was a separate company. Joe Biden during a 2020 debate said the allegation was “simply not true.”
Trump in his interview baselessly alleged that the payment was made not just to Hunter Biden but Joe Biden as well.
Luzhkov’s wife “gave him $3.5 million, so now I would think Putin would know the answer to that. I think he should release it,” Trump said. “I think we should know that answer. Now, you won’t get the answer from Ukraine… I think Putin now would be willing to probably give that answer, I’m sure he knows.”
Trump, who previously called Putin’s invasion of Ukraine “genius” and “savvy,” made the comments to Solomon, a former journalist at The Hill who helped fuel Trump’s debunked narrative that Joe Biden had pressured Ukraine to terminate a prosecutor who was investigating his son’s firm. Solomon’s reporting largely relied on information he got from Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani.
Trump, who was widely criticized for his own foreign business ties, did not mention in the interview that he himself sought to do business with Luzhkov in the late 1990s. Trump also reportedly planned to give Putin a $50 million penthouse while seeking to build a Trump Tower Moscow as recently as his 2016 campaign.
Hunter Biden said in 2020 that he was under a tax investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware. The Wall Street Journal reported last week that the probe is “gaining momentum” and prosecutors have sought grand jury testimony related to his dealings at Burisma. Trump, of course, also faces numerous investigations, including a Georgia criminal probe into his efforts to “find” enough votes to overturn his loss in the state, and two investigations in New York examining his shady business practices.
Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig suggested that Trump may have invited new legal scrutiny with his comments to Putin.
“It is a federal crime to solicit election assistance from a foreign national,” he tweeted, noting that there is legal uncertainty about whether the law covers campaign dirt. “At some point, DOJ needs to get a ruling in the courts… the only way to do that is to charge a case and then argue it up through the appellate courts. If nobody ever charges it, we’ll never use it and never know.”
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Russian state TV, which has stoked Hunter Biden conspiracy theories, perhaps in an attempt to troll American officials, suggested that Russia should push to overthrow Biden and help “our partner Trump” replace him, especially after Biden’s remark in a speech last week in Warsaw that Putin “cannot remain in power.”
“It is time for our people to call on the people of the United States to change the regime in the U.S. urgently and to again help our partner Trump become president,” one state TV host said in a clip flagged by the Daily Beast’s Julia Davis.
Retired Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, one of the impeachment whistleblowers who reported Trump’s infamous phone call with Zelenskyy, called Trump a “traitor” in response to his latest comments and said his security clearance should be revoked.
“He openly conspires with the enemy, when the U.S. is attempting to steer clear of a war with Russia,” Vindman tweeted.
“Russia calls for its ‘partner Trump’ to be installed as President. Trump calls for Russia to help him politically,” wrote Daniel Goldman, who served as Democratic counsel during both of Trump’s impeachments. “All this while Russia commits war crimes through a brutal, unprovoked invasion of another democratic nation. This is the leader of the Republican Party.”