Joe Biden called it “improper” for US President Donald Trump to have his daughter and son-in-law hold positions in the White House, suggesting in a CBS interview Sunday that Jared Kushner is not qualified to weigh in on the complex affairs assigned by his father-in-law, such as Israeli-Palestinian peace.
That assessment, which the Democratic presidential hopeful offered in a wide-ranging “60 Minutes” interview, ratchets up the rhetoric between Trump and Biden over each other’s adult children and family business affairs.
Biden told CBS that he doesn’t like “going after” politicians’ children, but he said none of his children would hold White House posts, even as he continued to defend his son, Hunter, against Trump’s charges that the Bidens are corrupt because of the younger Biden’s international business affairs while his father was US vice president.
“You should make it clear to the American public that everything you’re doing is for them,” Biden said, according to a CBS transcript, when he was asked about Ivanka Trump and Kushner, her husband, holding White House posts with significant policy portfolios.
“Their actions speak for themselves,” Biden said of the Trump family. “I can just tell you this, that if I’m president get elected president my children are not gonna have offices in the White House. My children are not gonna sit in on Cabinet meetings.”
Asked specifically whether he thinks Kushner should be tasked with negotiating Middle East peace agreements, Biden laughed. “No, I don’t,” he said. “What credentials does he bring to that?”
The release of the Trump peace plan, drafted by a team led by Kushner, has repeatedly been delayed, most recently by Israel’s ongoing inability to form a government.
The US has so far kept the political elements of its plan under wraps, while the economic aspects of it were presented in June by Kushner at an American-led conference in Bahrain. The economic side of the plan would see a $50 billion investment package for the Palestinians and the wider region.
The Palestinians skipped the Bahrain conference and have rejected the peace plan outright, pressing on with their boycott of the administration since Trump recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in December 2017 and cut Palestinian aid.
The Trump administration has since cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians, including all of its support for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and nearly $200 million earmarked for humanitarian programs in the West Bank and Gaza.
No details have been published so far about how the plan tackles key issues such as a potential independent Palestinian state, Israeli control over the West Bank, the fate of Jerusalem and the so-called right of return for Palestinians to homes from which their families fled or were expelled after Israel’s creation in 1948.
Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine and China remains an emphasis of Trump’s broadsides against Biden, a front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination. The younger Biden took a post on the board of a Ukrainian energy firm after his father became the Obama administration’s point man on US-Ukraine relations.
Trump’s focus on finding information about the Biden’s Ukraine connections is now at the heart of a House impeachment inquiry against the president. Ukrainian investigators have found no legal wrongdoing by either Biden.
Noting that, the former vice president blasted social media giant Facebook for allowing the Trump campaign to distribute online ads framing the Bidens as corrupt.
“You know, I’m glad they brought the Russians down,” Biden said, noting Facebook’s recent decision to shut down accounts that were distributing misinformation, including about Biden. But, the former vice president asked, “Why don’t you bring down the lies that Trump is telling and everybody knows are lies?”
Hunter Biden in a recent interview said the only thing his father said to him at the time he took the post at Burisma was, “I hope you know what you’re doing.”
The elder Biden told CBS he never got into any details over the firm, which had been the focus on Ukrainian corruption inquiries.
“What I meant by that is I hope you’ve thought this through. I hope you know exactly what you’re doing here,” the elder Biden said. “That’s all I meant. Nothing more than that because I’ve never discussed my business or their business, my sons’ or daughter’s. And I’ve never discussed them because they know where I have to do my job and that’s it and they have to make their own judgments.”
And turning the issue back on the president, Biden repeated a line he’s started using on the campaign trail, urging Trump to release his tax returns. “Mr. President … let’s see how straight you are, okay old buddy?” Biden said. “I put out 21 years of mine. You wanna deal with corruption? Start to act like it. Release your tax returns or shut up.”
Trump’s attacks have not displaced Biden as a duel Democratic front-runner alongside Sen. Elizabeth Warren. But it has nonetheless raised new questions about Biden’s argument that he’d be the best Democrat to take on the Republican president in a general election. And the Biden attack ads Trump and Republicans have financed in early nominating states, combined with Biden’s own lagging fundraising, have led some of his wealthy supporters to openly discuss the possibility of launching an independent political action committee.
Biden’s CBS interview was taped before his recent decision to reverse his previous opposition to such a Super PAC, a move that Warren and Sen. Bernie Sanders have indirectly criticized. Biden did address his campaign’s cash balance being dwarfed by Warren and Sanders, saying he’s “not worried” about raising enough money.
As to just how he can withstand Sanders’ and Warren’s grassroots fundraising juggernauts, he replied, “I just flat beat them.”