EXETER, N.H. ― It’s one of Donald Trump’s favorite rhetorical devices: apophasis, when the president brings up a topic by mentioning that he won’t bring up that topic. But as the 2020 presidential campaign gets more vicious and personal, it was Joe Biden on Monday who turned the tables on Trump.
With Trump continuing to cast the former vice president’s son Hunter as a crook for sitting on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Biden took a passing shot at Trump’s children while campaigning in New Hampshire.
Biden said it was “hard to resist the temptation” when you’re in office or running for office to “engage in the same kind of personal attacks that the person attacks you with.”
“You’ll notice, I haven’t said a thing ― and I’m not going to ― about his family,” Biden said of Trump.
“You want to talk about being engaged in enterprises where you’re self-serving,” Biden said, without going further. “But, guess what? The way I was raised, you don’t go after somebody’s kids.”
Of course, Biden is doing just that, lightly broaching the subject of the Trump children’s “self-serving” enterprises. But he’s also doing it in the subtle style of Cicero ― or Trump, for that matter.
Trump’s children ― and Trump himself ― continue to make millions off the Trump brand.
As laid out in an October report from GQ, the Trump kids are raking it in while their father is the president.
Contrary to Trump’s pledge when he took office that the Trump Organization wouldn’t be doing any new foreign deals, the business sold off $3.2 million of land in the Dominican Republic in 2018. The Trump Organization also sold its stake in a federally subsidized housing complex for $33 million, which the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson would have to sign off on.
You’ll notice, I haven’t said a thing ― and I’m not going to ― about his family. Joe Biden
Additionally, the Trump Organization sold a $15.8 million penthouse to a Chinese American businesswoman, Angela Chen, who sells access to U.S. business leaders and politicians. According to Forbes, Chen may have overpaid for the condo by 25%.
Trump’s daughter Ivanka, who works in the White House, also received three conditional trademarks from the Chinese government to sell items from her fashion line. The same day, Ivanka and her husband, fellow White House aide Jared Kushner, sat next to Chinese President Xi Jinping at a White House state dinner.
Kushner may also be involved in the biggest self-enrichment scheme. In August 2018, a Canadian asset management firm signed a 99-year lease for a building owned by the Kushner family, 666 Fifth Ave. That firm, which is partly funded by the Qatar Investment Authority, may have saved the Kushners from financial ruin, as $1.4 billion was due on the mortgage for the building in early 2019. And there are reports that Kushner supported a Saudi and United Arab Emirates blockade that hurt Qatar after the Qatari finance minister and Kushner’s father failed to reach a deal for the building.
There is, of course, the more routine benefits to being the child of a president, like the success of Donald Trump Jr.’s book or his high speaking fees, as well as the free advertising for family. And there’s the hotel stays at Trump properties by foreign diplomats and lobbyists. So the Trump family is in no position to argue that it hasn’t benefited from nepotism or public office.
Biden has done his best to stay away from the controversy surrounding his son and the claims that the Ukrainian government wouldn’t investigate Burisma, the energy company on whose board Hunter sat.
Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has been peddling the theory that Biden, when vice president, pushed for the firing of Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s top prosecutor, because Shokin wanted to investigate Burisma. There is no evidence of that claim, and there is substantial evidence that Biden pushed for Shokin’s ouster ― along with members of the European Union ― because Shokin wouldn’t investigate corruption among Ukrainian power brokers.
Regardless, Trump’s allies have also asked what Hunter Biden was doing sitting on the board of a Ukrainian energy company in the first place. The answer to that question is less satisfying because it does seem like the normal sort of nepotism that the children of influential politicians take advantage of.
Although Joe Biden isn’t very interested in going into a long defense of that system, he does appear to be opening himself up to the possibility of flinging some mud back at Trump and his children ― while maintaining that he’s above doing so.
As Biden said Monday at the town hall-style event in Exeter, “the only place where Trump is comfortable is down in the mud pit.”
But Biden is also trying to use Trump’s penchant for attacking the former vice president as proof that he’s the 2020 Democratic rival Trump fears the most.
“Have you ever seen a time that you’ve been involved in politics, or involved in observing, that a sitting president has spent so much time, money and effort to try to pick a Democratic nominee? Biden asked the crowd. “He doesn’t want me to be the nominee. I wonder why. I wonder why.”