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Fact Squad | Trump slams Biden son for buying Michigan auto firm with Chinese

President Donald Trump is targeting Joe Biden as weak on China and highlighting his son’s business dealings as proof of what he calls the Democratic challenger’s hypocrisy.

One day after Biden visited Warren to tout his “Made in America” initiative to return auto jobs to the United States, Trump held a rally in Saginaw County last week and renewed his attacks on Hunter Biden’s ties to foreign countries.

The latest accusation: Hunter Biden played a role in selling an Auburn Hills-based auto supplier to the Chinese, helping create jobs overseas.

That claim is true but neglects to mention the company, Henniges Automotive, had global dealings and operations before Hunter Biden’s involvement.

Trump also didn’t mention that questions have arisen about his daughter’s former business interests in China  — or that his real-estate empire reportedly received at least one loan from a state-owned Chinese bank before he became president.

The claims

The Hunter Biden accusations were resurrected Thursday by conservative website Breitbart after Biden’s speech in Warren slamming outsourcing.

The article, headlined “Hunter Biden’s Chinese Firm Helped Buy Out Michigan Automotive Company to Create Jobs Overseas,” was retweeted by the president’s son, Donald J. Trump Jr., on Thursday.

President Trump repeated the claim that night, telling a rally at MBS International Airport in Freeland that Hunter Biden "facilitated the sale of a Michigan automotive company to a leading Chinese military defense contractor."

The claims come after a previous attack on Hunter Biden from Trump, who said the son “made millions of dollars from Ukraine, made millions of dollars from China,” and “walk[ed] out of China with $1.5 billion in a fund.” 

The Washington Post debunked both of those claims.

The Facts

Hunter Biden was director of a private investment firm called BHR Partners from 2013 until he stepped down in October 2019.

The firm was “backed by some of China’s largest state banks, local government and the national pension fund,” according to the Financial Times

While Biden served as director in September 2015, BHR undertook a joint venture project with AVIC Auto to acquire Henniges Automotive. Per the official release, the deal was worth about $600 million, and BHR acquired 49 percent of the company, with AVIC Auto taking the rest.

AVIC Auto is a part of AVIC, a state-owned Chinese aerospace and defense company. In May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Industry and Security officially documented AVIC as an entity that has “been determined by the U.S. Government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States.”

Since the acquisition, Henniges Automotive has opened plants in Suzhou, China; Prudnik, Poland and a European headquarters in Mladá Boleslav, Czech Republic.

Henniges, like many auto suppliers, had global operations before BHR’s involvement. China is the second-biggest supplier of auto parts to the United States after Mexico, the Michigan-based Center for Automotive Research wrote in a report last year.

“No vehicle assembled in the United States is 100 percent U.S.-made; the average vehicle produced in the United States relies on 40 to 50 percent imported parts and component content,” the report read. 

Henniges Automotive Holdings has some 3,000 total employees spread out over 61 affiliated companies, according to Dun & Bradstreet, a company that provides investor research. It’s unclear how many jobs are overseas.

Bridge reached out to Henniges and both campaigns for comment late last week. 

Biden’s campaign responded by disputing Trump’s claim that Hunter Biden received $1.5 billion from China but did not comment on his role in the acquisition of Henniges. The Trump campaign and Henniges did not respond. 

The conclusion

The basics of Trump’s attack on Hunter Biden are accurate: There’s no question Henniges has continued its global footprint overseas since it was bought by his former firm.

It’s also well documented, though, the Chinese government granted 16 trademarks to Ivanka Trump’s line of fashion gear in 2018. She has since dissolved her brand to focus on government work.

It’s up to voters, ultimately, to decide whether the actions of children should reflect their fathers.

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