Despite his press team being unaware of it, President Biden insisted he pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping to be transparent about the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Biden made the claim Wednesday in response to a question from The Post at just his second solo press briefing in a year — insisting the press staff, who have previously been asked the same question, weren’t aware of the key exchange because they weren’t in the room.
Biden called on The Post more than an hour into the event in the White House East Room and defended his handling of XI during the November summit.
But given no one on his press team was there, Americans will just have to take his word for it.
“President Biden, on the coronavirus, we’re tragically approaching nearly 1 million Americans who died, and I’d like to ask you why it is that during your 3 1/2-hour virtual summit in November with the Chinese president you didn’t press for transparency and also whether that has anything to do with your son’s involvement in an investment firm controlled by Chinese state-owned entities?” The Post asked.
“The answer is, that we did — I did raise the question of transparency,” Biden surprisingly replied, giving a starkly different answer than his own press team and side-stepping his son Hunter’s business interests in China.
“I spent a lot of time with him and he — the fact is they’re just not, they’re just not being transparent,” Biden said, appearing to want the question to go away.
The Post pressed, “transparency on the coronavirus origins?”
“Yes,” the president said.
“And you did during the virtual summit?” The Post continued.
“Yeah,” Biden said.
“Is there a reason your press staff was unaware of that? And what did you say to the Chinese president?” The Post further pressed.
“They weren’t with me the entire time,” Biden said.
“I made it clear [to Xi] that I thought that China had on obligation to be more forthcoming on exactly what the source of the virus was and where it came from.”
The issue of coronavirus origins was conspicuously missing from a White House readout in November and White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Biden pushed for “transparency” more generally, giving an impression that he didn’t ask Xi to get to the bottom of the origins of the pandemic — a characterization she didn’t correct at press briefings.
Biden smiled and walked away in December when The Post asked him on the White House lawn why he hadn’t done more to get transparency from China.
The US intelligence community said in August that it’s possible the virus leaked from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, calling the theory one of two “plausible” explanations along with transmission from animals.
Fox News correspondent Peter Doocy pressed Psaki at a November briefing about what was widely believed to be Biden’s omission of pushing Xi on the virus’s origins — and was not corrected.
“The president did talk in his meeting [with Xi] about the importance of transparency, which is — this is exactly an example of,” Psaki said at a Nov. 18 briefing.
“It’s been more than two weeks since President Biden had a call with Xi,” Doocy told Psaki on Dec. 3, “and on that call, we know that he did not press him to help with the COVID origins investigation because you said that Xi just understands he’s supposed to be transparent. So in the two-plus weeks since, has he helped and been transparent?”
“I don’t believe that’s exactly what I said,” Psaki responded. “I believe what I said is that we have pressed for this repeatedly, we will continue to and we’ll continue to do that at a range of levels. I don’t unfortunately have any updates on the participation or willingness of the Chinese to add and provide additional data.”
First son Hunter Biden’s attorney Chris Clark said less than a week after Biden’s November summit with Xi that he divested a 10 percent stake in an investment fund controlled by Chinese state-owned entities. Hunter Biden and the White House provided no further details. That firm, BHR Partners, was registered 12 days after Hunter joined Vice President Biden aboard Air Force Two for a 2013 trip to Beijing.