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The House GOP’s Hunter Biden Investigation, Explained
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The House GOP’s Hunter Biden Investigation, Explained

Republicans have obtained evidence of suspicious payments and pledge to keep looking for more.

President Joe Biden waves alongside his son Hunter Biden in August 2022. (Photo by NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images)

House Republicans are taking advantage of their new majority and oversight authority to launch another probe into the business dealings of the Biden family.

The House Oversight Committee, helmed by Rep. James Comer, is investigating whether Biden family members and others leveraged President Joe Biden’s positions to make profitable business deals with foreign entities—particularly Chinese companies—and whether Biden himself was ever compromised in the process. One of the investigation’s main targets is the president’s scandal-ridden son, Hunter, who was already the subject of a similar 2020 investigation led by Senate Republicans. A key question this time is whether Hunter Biden’s overseas business dealings presented national security risks.

It’s still too early to know whether the investigation will unearth criminal activity, but a House Oversight Committee aide told The Dispatch that lawmakers believe that even if not technically illegal, the actions of Hunter Biden or others could be “what appears to be a matter of corruption through influence peddling.” The committee will also consider whether to advance a bill to require more financial disclosures by members of the first family or vice president’s family, even if those family members don’t run for or hold public office.

What did the 2020 investigation find?

This isn’t the first time Republicans have investigated Hunter Biden, whose scandals became a flashpoint in the 2020 presidential election: A 2020-Republican led investigation in the Senate uncovered no illegal financial dealings with foreign business associates in China and Ukraine on his part. But Republicans concluded Hunter Biden’s position on the board of Burisma Holdings, a natural gas company in Ukraine from 2014 to 2019 (three of those years while his father was vice president) and millions he made in other Ukraine-related business dealings indicated a potential conflict of interest.

The president has denied any nefarious business dealings by his family members, and said he has not been involved in any business with his son or brother, James Biden. The 2020 investigation found no evidence that Joe Biden had improper dealings with foreign companies.

Has the House Oversight Committee unearthed anything new?

After reviewing a large tranche of documents from Bank of America it secured via subpoena, the House Oversight Committee released a memo earlier this month alleging that between 2015 and 2017, Biden’s relatives received more than $1.3 million from the Chinese CEFC China Energy Co. The money was paid to the Biden family members indirectly, via Rob Walker, a business partner of Hunter Biden.

Recipients included Hunter, Joe Biden’s brother James, and Hallie Biden, the president’s daughter-in-law and widow of Beau Biden. Another account, with only the name “Biden” attached, also received funds.

Another transaction came in March 2017, less than two months after Joe Biden left office as vice president. Walker received $3 million from State Energy HK Limited, another Chinese company. He then wired over $1,065,000 to a company connected to James Gilliar, another business associate of Hunter Biden’s, and Biden family members and their companies received $1,065,692 over a three-month period. 

The $3 million figure and payments from CEFC to Hunter Biden have been reported in the past, but the transactions concerning Hallie Biden were not previously reported.

“It is largely unclear to me or the larger team what actual services have been provided, what products provided, with all of these deals,” an aide for the oversight committee told The Dispatch. “The common element of all of them is the Biden last name.”

The Bank of America revelations will spur a broader search from the committee. “We will make the scope of the investigation as broad as it needs to be, because we ultimately believe this involved multiple Biden family members,” the aide said.

The Bank of America documents came after weeks of back and forth between the committee and the Treasury Department. Treasury allowed the committee to have access to “suspicious activity reports,” which are records the government keeps when banks flag transactions that could indicate criminal activity. Those records end up in a database for law enforcement use in the event of potential investigations. Treasury allowed lawmakers to look at the files in person and take notes but not have copies or take pictures of the documents. 

Comer told the Wall Street Journal it took “threatening to hold a hearing and conduct a transcribed interview,” with a Treasury official (Treasury’s chief legislative liaison, Jonathan Davidson) for the department “to finally accommodate part of our request.”

Meanwhile, Hunter Biden is the subject of a separate federal investigation helmed by a Trump-appointed U.S. attorney in Delaware, David Weiss, over alleged tax violations related to his business dealings overseas and a false statement about a gun purchase. He has not been criminally charged.

What do the Bidens and Democrats say?

“Rep. Comer continues to pursue far-fetched and already-disproven conspiracy theories about the Biden family,” a Hunter Biden spokesperson told CNN. Yet Hunter Biden has reportedly confirmed the payments. The representative added that the accounts “belonged to Hunter, his uncle and Hallie—nobody else.”

Hunter Biden isn’t alone in those sentiments. Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, wrote in a March 12 letter to Comer that the subpoena targeting bank documents was “invasive and overbroad” in targeting members of Biden’s family who “have never held public office.” According to the letter, the committee asked for financial records “for three private individuals from January 20, 2009, to the present—a staggering 14-year period.”

Democrats on the panel have criticized Republicans for dropping an investigation that the previous Congress pursued about whether former President Donald Trump and members of his family profited during the last administration. In the fall, Democrats released documents showing that foreign government actors in China and Saudi Arabia had spent lavishly at various Trump properties. 

“We’re following the money,” an aide for the committee told The Dispatch. “There’s significant evidence of more transactions and more deals … I think you’ll see more from this committee in the future on that.”

Harvest Prude is a former reporter at The Dispatch.