President Biden stormed out of a press availability Thursday afternoon when asked if his ability to deal with China was “compromised” by his family’s business interests — complaining journalists were not being “polite” and telling them to “give me a break” before walking away.
Republicans say Biden can’t properly confront China on issues ranging from fentanyl and COVID-19 origins to a surveillance balloon that traversed US airspace this month because of his family’s financial links to Chinese state entities.
“Is your ability to deal with China compromised by your family’s business relationships in China, President Biden?” a reporter for The Post asked following a seven-minute address on the Chinese balloon and the subsequent shoot-down of three yet-to-be-identified objects.
At least four other reporters shouted questions at the president, who had not faced the press for nearly six days, but Biden chose to answer only The Post’s query.
“Give me a break, man,” Biden said, with a dismissive laugh.
Two American TV journalists and reporters for Polish and Japanese outlets proceeded to pepper Biden with a cacophony of competing questions, with The Post belatedly adding, “Does your son still co-own a company with Chinese government entities?”
Biden said, with an apparent disdainful hand gesture toward The Post’s reporter: “You can come to my office and ask a question when you have more polite people with you.”
It’s common practice for reporters to loudly shout competing questions at the president, but journalists standing near NBC News’ Peter Alexander, who was about 25 feet from The Post, said it appeared Biden was trying to call on him.
Biden granted an exclusive interview to Alexander moments after the chaotic end of the event.
“I think the last thing that [Chinese President] Xi [Jinping] wants is to fundamentally rip the relationship with the United States and with me,” Biden told Alexander, addressing how the spy balloon impacts foreign relations.
The Biden family has had two major relationships with Chinese state-linked companies. In each instance, President Biden allegedly was directly involved.
“When you look at the Biden balloon that came across the country for a week, and you look at how he changed from calling China an adversary and confronting China, as President Trump did, to calling China a partner and a competitor — how much has that been influenced by the Biden family’s corrupt business deals?” asked Rep. Bob Good (R-Va.) of The Post last week.
Business records suggest first son Hunter Biden still owns a 10% stake in Chinese state-backed BHR Partners, which says it manages $2.1 billion in assets, despite his father’s insistence there would be no family-business-related conflicts of interest during his presidency.
Hunter co-founded BHR Partners in 2013 within weeks of joining then-Vice President Biden aboard Air Force Two on an official trip to Beijing, according to the Wall Street Journal. Hunter introduced his dad to BHR CEO Jonathan Li and Joe Biden later wrote college recommendation letters for Li’s children.
Hunter Biden’s attorney Chris Clark said in late 2021 that the BHR stake had been divested, but neither he nor the White House has provided further information on the supposed transaction.
Joe Biden also allegedly was involved in Hunter and first brother James Biden’s venture with CEFC China Energy, a firm reputed to be a cog in Beijing’s “Belt and Road” foreign influence campaign. A May 13, 2017, email recovered from Hunter Biden’s laptop said the “big guy” would get 10% of that deal. Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski says he discussed the deal with Joe Biden and both Bobulinski and another former Hunter Biden partner, James Gilliar, identified Joe Biden as the “big guy.”
Hunter and Jim Biden earned $4.8 million from CEFC China Energy in 2017 and 2018, according to the Washington Post’s review of Hunter Biden laptop documents. An October 2017 email identifies Joe Biden as a participant in a call about CEFC’s attempt to purchase US natural gas.
Biden has taken heat from Republicans for not pushing harder to determine the origins of COVID-19, which killed more than 1 million Americans, and for not doing more to discourage China from exporting illegal fentanyl, which killed nearly 200,000 Americans in 2018-2021 alone.
US spy agencies assessed in August 2021 that a lab leak in Wuhan, China, was one of two “plausible” explanations for the pandemic, but Biden has said very little about the matter since then. He regularly misstates the fentanyl death toll, meanwhile, and rarely mentions it’s sourced largely from China.
Biden’s event Thursday was also marred by a return to aggressive pre-screening of reporters.
At 1:04 p.m. reporters were informed that Biden would be speaking at 2 p.m. in the South Court Auditorium of the White House-adjacent Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses the set of a “fake” White House. A link was provided for journalists interested in attending.
Reporters were told to gather for those remarks at 1:50 p.m., but White House aides didn’t inform reporters of who was allowed to attend, so almost all reporters entered the venue and took their seats before the presidential podium.
White House aides then asked journalists to check their emails to see if they were issued a credential to attend or not.
Several journalists, including from The Post, received emails at 1:52 p.m. — after reporters were already gathered — saying, “Due to space limitations, we are unable to accommodate your credential request for POTUS remarks.”
Some reporters left the room when asked, but The Post’s reporter pointed to about two dozen empty theater-style seats as evidence that there was no “space limitation” and a press aide relented.
The White House press corps has pushed back on the Biden administration’s mysterious pre-screening of reporters allowed into large presidential events. Those restrictions began during the COVID-19 pandemic, but have lingered long after masking, testing and social distancing rules ended — in what critics perceive as an unsubtle way of shaping the variety of questions presented to the president.