In front of television cameras at the White House on Thursday, President Donald Trump publicly urged two other nations to open an probe into the family of his possible 2020 election opponent, as the President said Ukraine and China should investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.
"If they were honest about it, they would start a major investigation into the Bidens," Mr. Trump said first about the government of Ukraine.
"Likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens," the President added, just before leaving for a day of events in Florida.
Democrats said the President was simply confirming what lawmakers suspected, that Mr. Trump was trying to use foreign nations to impact the U.S. elections.
“So instead of negotiating a trade deal with China to give American families a fair shake, the president of the United States is holding that trade deal hostage until China investigates his political opponents,” said Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR).
“Soliciting a foreign power to investigate your political opponent is an abuse of power. That's why Congress started a formal impeachment inquiry,” said Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA).
“The fact you are doing this in the open only makes it worse for you,” Lieu added on Twitter, as Democrats said the President had basically confirmed the accusations of a whistleblower from the U.S. Intelligence Community.
“Trump didn’t shoot someone on Fifth Avenue. He shot himself in the foot on the White House South Lawn,” said Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY).
“His disregard for the law is stunning,” said Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), who said the President remarks had “just created another article of impeachment by doing in public what he did in private.”
“In yet another flagrant abuse of power, the President is publicly asking foreign nations to manufacture dirt on a political opponent,” said Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D-VA).
“The President looked into the camera on the White House lawn and asked for foreign interference in American elections, said Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA). “They can't deny it.”
The call for Ukraine and China to investigate Biden echoed the President's line from the 2016 campaign, where he urged Russia to find Hillary Clinton's missing emails.
“Russia, if you're listening, I hope you're able to find the 30,000 emails that are missing," the President said.
Investigators found that several hours later, the Russians started to send phishing emails to officials on the Clinton campaign and at the Democratic National Committee.
“What Donald Trump just said on the South Lawn of the White House was this election's equivalent of his infamous 'Russia, if you're listening' moment from 2016,” the Biden campaign said in a statement.