President Trump told reporters on the South Lawn of the White House Thursday that China should launch an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden, though he noted that hasn't yet asked Chinese President Xi Jinping to do so.

REPORTER: What exactly did you hope Zelensky would do about the Bidens after your phone call?
TRUMP: Well I would think if they were honest about it, they'd start a major investigation into the Bidens. It's a very simple answer. They should investigate the Bidens. Because how does a company newly formed and all these companies by the way, likewise, China should start an investigation into the Bidens. Because what happened in China is just about as bad as what happened with Ukraine. So I would say that President Zelensky, if it were me, I would recommend that they start an investigation into the Bidens. Because nobody has any doubt that they weren't crooked. That was a crooked deal 100%.

Why it matters: It's another instance of the president publicly calling for a foreign power to investigate one of his top political rivals. Trump is currently in the throes of an impeachment inquiry for doing exactly that with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky — something he admitted to but continues to argue is perfectly appropriate.

  • At a press conference on Wednesday, Trump refused to answer a question from a reporter about what exactly he was asking Zelensky to do about the Bidens. On Thursday, Trump told reporters: ”If they were honest, they would start a major investigation."

Context: Hunter Biden's business dealings in Ukraine have gotten plenty of press attention, but Trump and Rudy Giuliani have also promoted allegations that the former vice president's son made "millions" in China by leveraging his father's name.

  • In December 2013, Hunter Biden and one of his daughters accompanied Joe Biden to China on a diplomatic trip, according to the Washington Post Fact Checker. During the trip, Hunter helped organize a handshake between his father and business partner Jonathan Li, who was the CEO of a Chinese investment firm.
  • 12 days later, Hunter Biden joined the board of a private-equity fund created by Li and another of Biden's business partners called BHR. A lawyer for Hunter Biden tells the Post that the board "did not directly invest, but instead advised those who did."
  • The lawyer told the Post: "To date, Mr. Biden has not received any return or compensation on account of this investment or his position on the board of directors. The characterization of Mr. Biden as owning a $1.5 billion private equity firm funded by the Chinese, or suggesting that Mr. Biden has earned millions of dollars from the firm is a gross misrepresentation of Mr. Biden's role with BHR."

Go deeper ... Fact check: What Joe and Hunter Biden actually did in Ukraine

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20 Republican former U.S. attorneys endorse Biden, call Trump "a threat to the rule of law"

Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Twenty Republican former U.S. Attorneys on Tuesday endorsed Joe Biden while saying that "President Trump's leadership is a threat to rule of law" in the U.S., the Washington Post reports.

What they're saying: In the letter, the former prosecutors criticize Trump's use of the Department of Justice, saying the president expects the DOJ to "to serve his personal and political interests."

  • "He has politicized the Justice Department, dictating its priorities along political lines and breaking down the barrier that prior administrations had maintained between political and prosecutorial decision-making," the letter says.
Updated 41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Politics: Axios-Ipsos poll: Federal response has only gotten worse — The swing states where the pandemic is raging.
  2. Health: The coronavirus is starting to crush some hospitals — 13 states set single-day case records last week.
  3. Business: Winter coronavirus threat spurs new surge of startup activity.
  4. Media: Pandemic causes cable and satellite TV providers to lose the most subscribers ever.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events.
  6. World: Unrest in Italy as restrictions grow across Europe.

Ted Cruz defends GOP's expected return to prioritizing national debt

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) told "Axios on HBO" on Monday that he wishes reining in the national debt was a higher priority for President Trump.

Why it matters: Trump pledged during the 2016 campaign to reduce the national debt and eliminate it entirely within eight years, though he also deemed himself "the king of debt" and said there were some priorities that required spending. In the fiscal year that ended in September, the deficit reached a record $3.1 trillion.